Sam Allardyce admits Sunderland will try to take advantage of rookie Stoke City stopper Jakob Haugaard this weekend.
The loss of goalkeeper Jack Butland - injured on England duty last month - has hampered Mark Hughes’ side over recent weeks, with former Sunderland loanee Shay Given then suffering a groin strain at Manchester City last weekend.
That puts Danish youngster Haugaard in the frame to start against Sunderland on Saturday, and Allardyce will look to target the 23-year-old, who has made just three Premier League appearances.
Allardyce added: “They’ve lost one of the best young goalies in the country in Butland. He’s achieved many results for Mark this season.
“After your goalscorers, your goalkeeper is your most important player.
“Obviously they’ve had a little bit of a problem there with Shay getting injured at half-time last week and Haugaard coming on.
“If we can test him, he might be a little bit shaky.”
However, Allardyce has rubbished the theory that Stoke are already ‘on the beach’, despite the Potters shipping four goals in each of their last three games during hefty defeats to Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City.
That has prompted talk of Stoke downing tools and Sunderland being able to take advantage at the Britannia Stadium, as they look to secure the victory that would keep them out of the relegation zone.
However, Allardyce believes it has been injuries to key players which has hampered the Potters, rather than players becoming complacent with little concrete left to fight for this season.
“We just have to focus on us and trying to beat Stoke City, who people have been saying that they’ve switched off,” said the Sunderland boss.
“For me, that’s always been something I find difficult to accept about a Mark Hughes team.
“We’ve looked at them in depth and it’s the six or seven injuries to key players which have obviously weakened the side to the point where they’ve lost the last three games quite heavily.
“We have to try hit our best form and if they’ve lost a bit of confidence, then we’ve got to take advantage of that.”