Stoke's ongoing issues despite Liam Delap's arrival from Manchester City ahead of Sunderland fixture

Sunderland are preparing to face Stoke City in the Championship – but what can they expect at the bet365 Stadium?

The Potters drew 2-2 with Middlesbrough last time out and have taken four points from their first four league games this season.

To find out more, we caught up with Pete Smith from The Stoke Sentinel on the latest episode of The Roar Podcast:

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Stoke City manager Michael O'Neill. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

What is the expectation at Stoke this season?

PS: “The expectation is that they have to sustain a top six push and anything below that won’t be accepted.

“Michael O’Neill is in the last year of his contract and I don’t think they will be able to sleepwalk into next season. They will have to make a decision whether to stick with him or everyone knows what the other scenario is.

“This is still a new team, he’s made nine signings now this summer and it’s been such a hard task getting rid of all the dead wood that he inherited in 2019.”

What is the view on O’Neill?

PS: “He was highly rated at Stoke when he joined and inherited a team from Nathan Jones that was plummeting towards League One, and he pulled them clear.

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“He had two really strong starts to the season in the following two seasons and the second halves have been a write-off, largely due to injuries. They’ve had some bad luck with injuries to key players.

“On the back of a really poor end to last season there is obviously a lot of frustration.

“Although he’s done a lot of business in the summer and been backed by the board to do it, he needs results to get the fans off his back and get faith again in what he’s doing.”

Who are the team’s key players?

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PS: “The ones who are missing first off.

“Josh Tymon and Harry Clarke are the main wing-backs, who are really key to how Stoke play, they are both out for six weeks so that’s a real blow.

“Up front they will always have a threat. They have Dwight Gayle and Liam Delap has just signed who we are excited to see.

“They have some decent players up there, Tyrese Campbell and Jacob Brown. Brown scored against Middlesbrough but it would be a surprise if Delap didn’t start.”

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What system will they play?

PS: “They are wedded to the 3-5-2 and it’s pretty tricky when you haven’t got the wing-backs to play it.

“Tariqe Fosu who has come in from Brentford started against Middlesbrough at right wing-back and Jordan Thompson started at left wing-back, he’s a central midfielder really but will give you everything.

“It’s still going to be a big ask if they are going to have to do that for the best part of six weeks.

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“Fans have never been keen on the idea of wing-backs at Stoke. For the past 20 years any manager who has tried it, the chants of 4-4-2 from the Boothen End have not been too far behind.”

What is your predicted line-up?

PS: “(3-5-2) Bursik; Taylor, Flint, Wilmot; Fosu, Kilkenny, Baker, Smallbone, Thompson; Delap, Brown.”

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