In times of woe when you’re in need of solace, the last place you’d usually want to visit is Stoke.
Be it football or otherwise. These days though, Stoke is a much kinder place.
Gone are the ragtag, us against the world mob of Tony Pulis’ era, with Mark Hughes having his team playing some decent stuff.
Hughes would never let the ‘rough em up’ mentality totally disappear though, which meant his blend of tough tacklers and flair players are perfect for Stoke’s next step.
The Potters seem to have lost their way a little in 2016 though. If Stoke looked kinder before, then they’re just plain generous now as they gift points to every side they’ve faced this season.
How fitting is it that we should play them tomorrow, as both sides search for that elusive first win.
It’s strange to see Stoke struggling. They’ve been dependable ever since they arrived in the Premier League.
So who will come out on top on tomorrow?
As daft as it may sound, Sunderland do have some advantages heading into this game.
First of all, we’re away from home where we seem to have fared slightly better recently.
The majority of Jermain Defoe’s Sunderland goals have came away from the Stadium of Light and against a Stoke defence which is as leaky as ours, you’d expect chances to fall his way.
The main positive to salvage from the dull pile of wreckage that was the West Brom game was that David Moyes may have finally found a system that works.
Some savvy in-game management saw Moyes replace the injured Jan Kirchhoff with the dynamic Patrick van Aanholt, switching his team to a 3-5-2, which seemed a much better fit for the players at his disposal.
It allowed van Aanholt to charge forward while being covered by the extra centre half, and it gave Duncan Watmore the opportunity to play in his preferred central position.
Licence was also given to Wahbi Khazri to operate just behind the strikers in the No10 role.
Both Watmore and Khazri gave impressive showings, which deserve starts in their preferred positions.
There’s also an opportunity for some under performing players to put in some much needed big displays.
A long layoff for Jason Denayer will probably signal a start for Papy Djilobodji and Jan Kirchhoff’s injury could give Paddy McNair a stay of execution in midfield, should Moyes stick with the 3-5-2 formation.
A lack of defensive options means that Djilobodji is the only choice when it comes to the third defender, but with John O’Shea guiding him through, and an extra man to cover any rash challenges, it could be of great benefit to the Senegal international.
Should Steven Pienaar and Lee Cattermole be ruled out through injury then it will be either McNair or Jack Rodwell partnering Didier Ndong in the centre of midfield, both of whom really need to put in a performance to win over some wavering supporters.
It’ll be a tough, scrappy game at the recently renamed Bet365 Stadium, and will probably be decided by the odd goal.
If David Moyes remains bold and goes with the system that ended our last match, that first win may come at a very crucial time.