Three key areas for Sunderland to secure back-to-back wins against Stoke

Charlie Adam
Charlie Adam
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Sunderland have a chance to genuinely change the complexion of the relegation battle by securing back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

But they face a deceptively difficult task against a Stoke side who have not conceded away from home since September.

Here are three key areas for Sunderland to record the victory which could move them out of the drop zone:

1. Subdue pantomime villain Charlie Adam

The Stoke midfielder may be one of those characters that opposition fans love to hate, yet he is an undoubted talent and a match-winner in the Potters’ ranks.

Adam scored home and away against Sunderland last season, including a stunning equaliser at the Britannia Stadium during the nerve-wracking climax to the campaign.

Yann M’Vila and Lee Cattermole were excellent in preventing Yohan Cabaye dictating the tempo for Crystal Palace on Monday, particularly the latter who was as good as he’s been all season.

But they’ll need to be similarly alert to thwart Adam’s knack of finding those pockets of space in behind Jonathan Walters.

2. Put Stoke’s water-tight defence on the back foot

Even though Sunderland had the clearer chances, there was an element of earning a couple of bonus points at Palace after Sam Allardyce first and foremost wanted to avoid defeat.

Allardyce will not suddenly go gung-ho tomorrow, yet Sunderland will need to be more attack-minded at home, albeit it’s against a Stoke side who have taken 10 points from their last four away games.

If Allardyce persists with a 3-5-2, then DeAndre Yedlin is an obvious like-for-like replacement for the suspended Billy Jones, yet does the Sunderland boss make a more offensive-minded change further forward?

With Adam Johnson, Jeremain Lens, Duncan Watmore and Fabio Borini available as possible alternatives to Seb Larsson, Allardyce has options to stretch the Stoke defence.

3. Make the most of two strikers if Jermain Defoe starts

It would have been cruel on Defoe if injury had sidelined him after grabbing the winner at Crystal Palace.

Allardyce could, of course, revert to a 4-2-3-1 and leave Defoe on the bench, yet, after so much tinkering during his first weeks at the helm, perhaps he will relish some continuity by keeping faith with a 3-5-2 set-up.

And with Defoe and Steven Fletcher together up front, Allardyce has his two most natural finishers starting.

Sunderland are going to need players capable of keeping their composure in the penalty area, amid the omnipresent pressure of the relegation battle.