Stoke City-Sunderland Preview
Sunderland have a chance to post consecutive victories for the first time, and the Stadium of Light has been a house of horrors of sorts for Stoke City heading into Saturday's Premier League matchup.
The Black Cats got a fortuitous goal by Jermain Defoe in the 80th minute and held on for a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace to lift them to nine points - one below their North East rivals Newcastle United, the only other team they've beaten.
Sunderland (2-3-8) bounced back from consecutive losses in which they conceded seven goals.
"To come away from Selhurst Park with a win and a clean-sheet after we've conceded as many goals as we have in recent weeks is massive for us," manager Sam Allardyce told the Black Cats' official website. "We showed huge amount of resilience and I'm hoping to use that as a base to kick on, get more points and results, and climb up the table."
There's a genuine sense of belief around the Stadium of Light this week and not just because of Monday's announcement that pop sensation Rihanna will be returning there this summer for a concert.
The Black Cats' next two home fixtures before the festive period are against Stoke City and Watford, opponents that have not won at Sunderland in 20 years.
Stoke have lost five times and drawn twice in seven Premier League visits to the Stadium of Light, getting outscored 13-2. Sunderland have been a bit of a bogey team for them, with the Potters losing four times and drawing three in the last eight league meetings.
Boss Mark Hughes has given every indication Xherdan Shaqiri will be available after the Swiss midfielder exited in the 65th minute of Saturday's 1-0 victory at Southampton. Shaqiri was taken off as a precaution with a hamstring issue.
"He wanted to go out and play the second half but it was important that we protected him a little bit, which is what we did," Hughes told Stoke City's official website.
"I was really pleased with what he offered us once more today. You can see each game he plays that he is adapting and showing the undoubted qualities he possesses."
The Welshman known as "Sparky" during his Manchester United playing days was pleased his side produced a third straight clean sheet for goalkeeper Jack Butland. The Potters have yielded 12 goals for the Premier League's fourth-best defence.
"We were rock solid across the back and as a consequence of that Jack didn't really have a great deal to do at all," Hughes said. "In fact I can't recall him making any saves of note."
Stoke own the league's second-worst attack with a haul of 11 goals. Former Barcelona man Bojan Krkic had the lone tally last weekend to match Marko Arnautovic for the team lead with three.
Defoe recently compared midfielder Duncan Watmore to Real Madrid star Gareth Bale. Watmore could be in line for his second start of the season.
These sides have prominent United States international defenders. Sunderland's DeAndre Yedlin has made five starts arriving on loan from Tottenham Hotspur while Stoke City's Geoff Cameron has been a reserve in his last three games after starting his first nine.