Three things Sunderland must get right against Stoke City

Sunderland will be looking for an action replay of last season's visit of Stoke when they resume their Premier League survival fight.

Friday, 13th January 2017, 10:55 am
Duncan Watmore gets mobbed after scoring the vital second goal in Sunderland's 2-0 home win over Stoke last season. Picture by Frank Reid

Back then, a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light took the Black Cats out of the relegation zone, goal-scoring full-back Patrick van Aanholt and Duncan Watmore on target late on.

Sunderland’s task was admittedly made a little easier by the fact Stoke played half the game with 10 men.

Depending on Crystal Palace’s capital clash with West Ham, the Black Cats could get out of the bottom three should they win and the Eagles lose or draw.

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Here are three areas Sunderland need to get right tomorrow.

Keep a lid on Charlie Adam:

Peter Crouch is the obvious dangerman for Stoke.

The former England striker is back in the side and back to his best, with some excellent link-up play with his team-mates, not to mention a couple of goals. But there is more to the Potters than Crouchy.

Gone are the days when a team played Stoke and the tin hats were distributed.

Mark Hughes has installed football at the Bet365 Stadium and it’s paid off.

Marko Arnautovic is a constant threat, as he proved earlier in the season against the Black Cats.

Then there is Xherdan Shaqiri, whose play in the final third is just as effective. In fact, no one has set up more goals for Stoke than those two.

However, watch out for Charlie Adam and his left foot. Both home goals in Stoke’s 2-0 win over Watford last time out came via the midfielder, whose curling left-footed deliveries provided the ammo for Ryan Shawcross and Crouch.

Put Stoke on the back foot:

Managers will not entertain talk of hoodoos.

“They don’t exist”, “It’s just coincidence”, “the past is the past” are the sort of responses you get when informing the boss that his team has a lousy record at such-and-such a ground.

For all they might complain bitterly about such nonsense, it’s a fact that some clubs could not buy a win at certain locations.

This writer does not wish to put the skids on Sunderland, but Stoke and the Stadium of Light do not go arm in arm together like Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies or Dempsey & Makepeace.

Come to think of it, Dempsey & Makepeace were on our TV screens the last time the Potters won on Wearside in the league (though they did win a League Cup tie a couple of years ago).

Stoke don’t like it up here, not one bit, so the Black Cats must get on the front foot (just as they did against Leicester).

The home support (so passionate against Liverpool) can play their part too – make some noise, get on Stoke’s backs and remind them why they are not lovers of this wonderful part of the area.

Get the set-pieces right:

Those who sat through the bore draw with Burnley and then, even more courageously, made it through this reporter’s post-match ramblings will know the corner against the Clarets were not exactly top drawer.

On days when chances may not exactly be flowing, having seven opportunities to put the ball into the opposition box is not a figure to be sniffed at.

Seb Larsson usually shows a bit of quality from a dead ball, his free-kick even brought the late penalty which gave Sunderland a draw with Liverpool.

He was a little off-colour last week, though the Black Cats seemed reluctant to put the ball into the mix.

Get the ball in, lads, against a side who have leaked a few times on the road.

Admittedly, Stoke’s last three awaydays have been at Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, so three heavy defeats at title contenders is hardly a shock.

But if they are put under pressure, they can creak and they hold top spot in the OG department, conceding three past their own keeper, further evidence on that subject.