Back it is to the Premier League and that means back to our rather pointless but intriguing (for us at least!) predictions. As usual, three points for the correct score and one for the correct result! Feel free to join in...(comments bit at the bottom...nudge nudge).
First, the standings! Well, after the debut of this feature piece for the Southampton game, only myself (Gary) and Martin managed to predict the draw but neither by the correct score line. That means we're both on one with the rest on zero.
Martin (MartinWalker) - 1 point
To say the least, I'm not expecting this to be a classic. I'm fully expecting Stoke to come and play for a draw - probably a goalless one - with them now right back in the relegation scrap, without any wins in their last five games, and knowing that if we win, not only will we be out of the relegation zone, but we will be just one point behind them. Tony Pulis may have got criticism for his style of play at Stoke, often unfairly, but Mark Hughes hardly sets his sides up as entertaining, free-flowing footballers - every time we sack a manager I'm always somewhat scared that we will end up appointing him. There's nothing in the Stoke team that should worry us - and in some areas, like the centre of midfield, they look seriously weak (no wonder they want to sign Cattermole and Fletcher). As long as neither Adam nor Crouch has one of their occasional good games, we should be fine if we can get in front. Our biggest challenge is going to be taking the lead against a defensive side, equipped with misfiring strikers. So I'm expecting it to be a night where patience and support, rather than ironic cheering, is called for, and I hope our fans are up for that.
Sunderland 1-0 Stoke
Gary (Gmac) - 1 Point
We're a dead cert. Cup finalists in good form, scoring goals for a change whilst Stoke can score or stop conceding away from home. Dead cert as I say, so we'll probably draw. That being said, the usual air of frustration at the Stadium of Light must sure disappear after our cup heroics, making it a much nicer place to play footy.
Sunderland 2-0 Stoke
We HAVE to be confident going into this game, this is the perfect opportunity to gain some vital points and boost moral ahead of 'that' game on Saturday. Stoke played some nice football against Chelsea on Sunday, football we have to be aware of and I'm sure Gus Poyet is working hard to stop players like Oussama Assaidi, who has the ability to cause havoc for our full-backs. Nevertheless I think momentum is with us and a narrow win will do.
Sunderland (Johnson) 1-0 Stoke
John C (JohnC)
My confidence in forecast a football match is lower than Sunderland's were in winning one under Paolo Di Canio. My feeling is that I have less chance than I have of winning the National Lottery. Since I never buy a Lotto ticket that just about sums up my misgivings. At times I have had feelings, almost premonitions about the way a game is likely to go, but even then it has been usually completely wrong. The challenge becomes even worse in the case of Sunderland, where all we can say about the team's recent form is that it is predictably unpredictable.
All this waffling uses up space for suppositions about the match against Stoke hopefuly so I get less wrong than Lawro. (Heaven forbid, I certainly don't want to go down any comparison route). In the end, it often turn out that wild guesses can be better than studying form, using statistical analysis, considering every factor, even player diets and astrology. The law of averages I also find does not often apply to Sunderland, more so the reverse and to opposition teams who tend to break long losing sequences or players scoring who haven't done so since Len Shackleton wrote a blank page about his knowledge of football.
Enough is enough. I going to plumb for a 2–0 victory. which may sound like a huge margin for a team that has proved to be so inept at creating chances, let alone scoring any. It is also highly optimistic since Sunderland have not won a league match at the SoL in more than two months. Must be perfect then.
Sunderland 2-0 Stoke
Another game and another big chance to get out the relegation zone. Stoke have really struggled for goals away from home this year, failing to score in 7 of their 11 away games so far, meaning penalty-hero Vito shouldn’t be too busy. They don’t seem too confident at the back either, and, with the arrival of Scocco seemingly imminent, the pressure is on Fletcher to prove he can still lead the line, and I’m backing him to score one in each half in a tense but controlled win for Sunderland to move us a point behind the visitors.
Sunderland 2-0 Stoke
How many "6 pointer" games have we had this season!? Tomorrow is another and I fully expect (hope) that we'll end this home league unwinnable gamey hoodoo voodoo thing we've got in the air at the SOL these days. Be gone you dastardly wizardry! 6 (3) points for Sunderland.
Sunderland 2-0 Stoke
Tonight I feel like a baseball player. I'm going out to bat in the World Series. Three strikes and I'm out. If we fail to win any of our next three matches against three poor teams then I think that is it for us in this relegation battle.
The key tonight is patience. Stoke will settle for a draw and put plenty of men behind the ball; so we need the players to remain patient and the players need us to be patient to. Let's not put them under too much pressure too early and hope the patient play favoured by Poyet is rewarded at some stage.
With Hull, Palace, West Brom, West Ham, Swansea and Cardiff coming up let's hope it's the start of a Home Run of fixtures where we pick up sufficient points to stay in the division.
Sunderland (Borini and Brown) 2-0 Stoke
Whilst the cup run and pending trip to Wembley has given fans a much needed boost after some difficult times following the Lads over the last couple of years, our Premier League position still looks somewhat precarious. The game against Stoke provides another opportunity to haul ourselves out of the mire but can we actually take it this time? Crystal Palace have shown that a couple of wins can really lift you out of it but we need to get those points on the board ASAP. After making 10 changes to the side for the Kidderminster game on Saturday the first-choicers should be back refreshed and playing with confidence from the Man Utd victory. However, Stoke will be keen to improve on pretty desperate away form and I reckon will be happy with a point. They've shipped almost 3 goals per game over the last six matches but we all know that goalscoring has been our biggest problem this season. I think it will be a tight, close game.
Sunderland 1-1 Stoke