Allardyce's Line up Against Stoke & Key Battles

Ahead of Sunderland's trip to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, we take a look at the key duels that will define the match.

by Michael_Peters Thursday, 28 April 2016 08:48 PM Comments
Ahead of Sunderland's trip to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, we take a look at the key duels that will define the match.

Marko Arnautovic vs. Lamine Kone
Arnautovic is probably the closest thing Stoke have to a "complete" player. Most often deployed on the left wing, he's contributed to the Potters' cause this season with ten goals and five assists. In Stoke's 4-0 defeat to Man City last week, he was just about the only Stoke player showing any sort of initiative. Despite the scoreline, he was a constant threat, and even got back to help out his team defensively on a number of occasions.

He'll be up against Kone on Saturday, which should be a bruising encounter. Both players are determined and physical, with neither afraid of a solid impact. Arnautovic fancies himself as good in the air, and so he should at 6 foot 3, but Kone has dominated the skies in Sunderland's past two games. If the big Austrian's physical presence is nullified, it's hard to see where else Stoke would get any sort of attacking threat from.

Jermain Defoe vs. Jakob Haugaard
With Jack Butland injured on England duty, and Shay Given a doubt with a groin injury, the gloves will be passed to 23-year-old Jakob Haugaard on Saturday. The signs aren't good for Stoke's third-choice stopper, who has conceded eight times in just two and a half games so far this season. Unfortunately for him, he will come up against one of the league's most accomplished strikers this week. 

Defoe has lost a bit of skill and pace since his heyday at Spurs, but he still has an eye for goal and the sight of him bearing down on the penalty area would frighten almost any keeper in the league. He may also have a point to prove to Roy Hodgson, with a significant minority of fans calling for him to be given a place in England's Euro 2016 squad. Unlikely? Of course, but Theo Walcott got a callup for the World Cup in 2006, so anything can happen.

Fabio Borini vs. Erik Pieters
A bit of good news for Stoke is that Erik Pieters slots back into the squad at left-back, following a two-game suspension for picking up too many yellow cards. Having conceded 12 goals in three games, they'll be looking for any glimmer of hope they can as regards their defence. In fairness, Pieters was a big miss for them over the last two games. He is difficult to get past, he'll cut out aerial balls just as well as stopping his man going anywhere, and he's even got a bit more pace than you'd expect of a defender of his build.

Fabio Borini will have to be at his best to get around him. Fortunately, Borini is good enough. He can outmatch the Dutch defender for pace, and should be too much for the Stoke man when he cuts inside from the wing. There's also the chance of a player of Pieters' lack of discipline fouling a player as fast as Borini - he'll have to keep his occasionally-volatile temper in check.