Stoke v Sunderland 15:00 Sat
Martin O’Neill has shown us nothing over the past two months if not the dazzling affect that good man-management can have in modern football as Betfred make the Black Cats a decent price for victory at the Britannia.
The Black Cats were down in the dumps of the bottom half of the Premier League table at the beginning of December but their season has taken a massive turn for the better since then and the side now find themselves at the lofty heights of eighth place.
Since O’Neill took charge of his first game at the Stadium of Light, the North East outfit have won a huge majority of their matches under the North Irishman and now boast the best form in the whole of the Premier League over the last six games.
Despite this, a trip to the Brittania Stadium is never an easy one and although the Potters’ home record hasn’t been quite as impressive as in recent seasons, Tony Pulis’ side still pose a decent threat to O’Neill’s pristine record as manager of Sunderland.
Stoke City have kept a clean sheet in more than a third of their home matches this season and could do so again this weekend with Sunderland lacking in the striking department.
The Wearsiders recently lost Nicklas Bendtner to a short-term injury and with the Dane expected to be out for another few weeks, Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham were expected to deputise for the side.
However, Frazier Campbell timed his return from injury perfectly and last weekend saw the pint-sized poacher return to first team action after 18 months out of the game.
The 24 year-old has a 100% scoring record since his return and will surely hold down a starting berth against Stoke City as the team’s senior striker.
The fixture may also bring the first debuts for January signings Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Wayne Bridge, the latter of whom came on in the last ten minutes of midweek’s 3-0 win over Norwich.
This encounter is a six-pointer in every meaning of the term as Sunderland and Stoke – 8th and 9th placed, respectively – look to ascend the table in pursuit of a European spot.
Sunderland may be going through an excellent run of form but the side have the Premier League second to worst attacking record when playing away from home; something that could pose a factor in this weekend’s trip to the Brittania.