The FA Cup fourth round has restricted the Championship to just two fixtures on Saturday, with Stoke’s trip to the north-east to face Sunderland the pick of the day’s league action.
The Black Cats exited the world’s oldest cup competition at the hands of bitter rivals Newcastle and have since lost each of their last two league games, at the hands of Ipswich and most recently Hull.
The Potters meanwhile have won one of their last three in all competitions, with a victory over bottom side Rotherham sandwiched between losses to Brighton in the FA Cup and to Birmingham last time out.
Sunderland are without defender Niall Huggins, who is out for the season with a knee injury, while Elliot Embleton is also unavailable due to a torn thigh muscle.
Corry Evans could be in for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after sustaining an injury to his cruciate ligament, while Dennis Cirkin and Bradley Dack are both on the cusp of returning to full fitness, although both are unlikely to feature.
There are no new injury concerns for Stoke boss Steven Schumacher, although goalkeeper Frank Fielding is still likely to be absent.
Changes could be made to the side beaten 2-1 by Birmingham, with midfielder Ben Pearson potentially featuring after playing just one minute of football so far in 2024.
Michael Beale’s Sunderland are the favourites to get back to winning ways on Saturday at 21/20, whereas Stoke can be backed at 13/5 to claim victory at the Stadium of Light.
The draw has odds of 12/5, while Sunderland’s Jack Clarke is the likeliest goalscorer at 21/10.
Stoke to win @ 13/5
The Black Cats were in a play-off position a matter of weeks ago, but two consecutive defeats has seen them drop to 10th in the table, three points away from the top six.
Just six points separates sixth and 14th in the Championship so Sunderland will be aware that they cannot afford to drop points on a regular basis.
However, they have not achieved too many positive results against Stoke in recent years, losing each of their last two meetings, including a 5-1 humiliation in front of their own fans.
The Potters have lost just one of their last eight league games, drawing five, and are yet to lose on the road under Steven Schumacher, winning two of their three away trips with the former Plymouth boss in charge..
Stoke are beginning to pull away from the relegation zone and should feel confident in getting a result against an out-of-sorts Sunderland, potentially grabbing the win.
Both teams to score @ 4/5
Although both sides have the ability to be defensively resolute, this fixture is likely to produce drama at both ends given its recent history.
Four of the last six meetings have seen both teams find the net, with 17 chances being converted across these matches.
The reverse fixture this season saw Stoke grab a 2-1 victory, with Sunderland’s top scorer Jack Clarke finding the back of the net, and another goal fest could be on the cards on Saturday.
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