STOKE CITY will be chasing a third successive Premier League win when they face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Monday.
Tony Pulis’ men followed up their win at QPR by beating Norwich 1-0 at home last weekend – a victory that took their points tally to the 40-point mark.
And although not mathematically assured of top-flight safety, the Potters will head to Wearside determined to put more daylight between themselves and the bottom three.
Sunderland are closer to the relegation trapdoor than they hoped after a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Aston Villa last Monday brought to an end their two-match winning streak.
Paolo Di Canio’s side appeared to ease their relegation worries by beating arch rivals Newcastle and Everton but remain mired in the battle to avoid the drop.
Full name: Sunderland AFC
Stadium: The Stadium of Light
Chairman: Ellis Short
Manager: Paolo Di Canio
2011/12: Premier League (13th), FA Cup (Quarter Final), League Cup (Second Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £13 million for Asamoah Gyan to Stade Rennais, August 2010.
Record transfer fee received: £24million for Darren Bent from Aston Villa, January 2011.
SUNDERLAND’S decision to appoint Paolo Di Canio as Martin O’Neill’s successor at the Stadium of Light last month lit a blue touch paper of dissent, both on Wearside and in the wider football community.
The Italian’s supposed political leanings may not have sat comfortably with too many people, but the passion and enthusiasm he has brought to his new job has gone some way towards winning over some of the doubters among his own club’s followers.
Di Canio is still a relative newcomer to management, having only taken up his first role – at Swindon – in May 2011.
He guided the Wiltshire club to promotion to League One in his first season in charge but resigned from his role in February of this year.
As a player, Di Canio made his mark in England with Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton. He also served Celtic, as well as Lazio, Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli in his home country
THE POTTERS have doubts surrounding Marc Wilson, Andy Wilkinson and Glenn Whelan.
Wilson is still nursing the hamstring problem that forced him to miss the win over Norwich, while Wilkinson and Whelan picked up back and groin injuries respectively in that game.
All three will be closely monitored over the weekend before Tony Pulis finalises his squad for the trip to Wearside.
Sunderland will be withoutStephane Sessegnon, whose season has come to a premature end following his sending-off against Aston Villa.
Their appeal against his red card was dismissed and the Beninese forward must serve a three-match ban.
It’s a major blow for Sunderland, who are already without 11-goal striker Steven Fletcher.
Tony Pulis: “Confidence is a massive factor in professional sport, individually and collectively, but we’ll go to Sunderland and give it our best shot, although we know it will be a tough game.
“If we win our remaining three games we will have collected more points than ever before in the Premier League.
“But that’s the Premier League; there are thin lines between success and failure. Success for us – and it always will be – is actually staying in the Premier League. Anything else then is a bonus.
“We’ve got to maintain focus; I don’t think we can get above ourselves. There are seven or eight clubs you can say are guaranteed Premier League football each season but the rest of us are fighting for our lives.”
Paolo Di Canio:“I don’t talk about Stephane because he’s out. We have enough quality to score a goal and win a game.
“Obviously, we are playing at home which is really important with 40,000 people pushing for the players. There is extra motivation for them to give their best.
“Danny (Graham) hasn’t scored yet, but in the next few games he will be crucial. We have different ways to damage the opponents so I’m not worried.
“Obviously, I would like to have all my players available, but it is not possible. For sure, we are going to put the best team on the field that can winthe gameand get three points.”
THIS WEEKEND’S FIXTURES:
(All kick-offs 15:00 unless otherwise stated)
Fulham v Reading
Norwich v Aston Villa
Swansea v Manchester City
Tottenham v Southampton
West Brom v Wigan
West Ham v Newcastle
QPR v Arsenal (TV – 17:30)
Liverpool v Everton (TV – 13:30)
Manchester United v Chelsea (TV – 16:00)
League: 39 Stoke City wins; 60 Sunderland wins; 30 draws
FA Cup: 2 Stoke City wins; 2 Sunderland wins; 2 draws
League Cup:2 Stoke City wins; 0 Sunderland wins; 0 draws
Total: 43 Stoke City wins; 62 Sunderland wins; 35 draws
LAST FIVE MEETINGS:
Stoke 0-0 Sunderland (Premier League) – 27/10/12
Stoke 0-1 Sunderland (Premier League) – 04/02/12
Sunderland 4-0 Stoke (Premier League) – 18/09/11
Stoke 3-2 Sunderland (Premier League) – 05/02/11
Sunderland 2-0 Stoke (Premier League) – 06/11/10
FANCY A FLUTTER:
Stoke City win: 3/1
Sunderland win: 11/10
The odds are correct at the time of writing, and are from bet365.com. These may differ depending upon the latest betting trends.
THE MAN IN CHARGE:
LEE MASON, who is based in Bolton, will be in charge of Monday’s game at the Stadium of Light.
It will be the fourth time this season he has officiated over the Potters with the three previous games – at home to Arsenal, at Liverpool and away to Tottenham – having all ended in goalless draws.
In the 27 games he has refereed so far this season he has yet to hand out a red card but has issued 95 yellows, including 15 in the three games involving the Potters.