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Jon Riley 4th Feb 2011 - 14:56

Will Jones flip against his old club?

Stoke v Sunderland: 12:45 - live on Sky Sports

Sunderland's European dreams were dealt a blow as perennial Champions League qualifiers Chelsea exposed the gulf in class between the two teams at the Stadium of Light in midweek. The Black Cats have no time to lick their wounds though as a daunting trip to the Britannia awaits them in this Saturday lunchtime kick-off.

The hosts will be smarting themselves, after successive away defeats at Fulham and Liverpool. The Potters will hope to draw on home comforts where their intimidating fans create a magnificent atmosphere. Almost two thirds of Stoke's points this season have come at the Britannia stadium.

Stoke currently lie in eleventh place in the table, five places and seven points off their Wearside opponents. Both teams should be well acquainted with one another with City able to name six former Sunderland players in their squad. Danny Collins, Danny Higginbotham, Dean Whitehead, Rory Delap, Thomas Sorensen and the most recently transferred Kenwyne Jones have all plied their trade in the North-East at one time or another.

Trinidad and Tobago star Jones will be looking to put one over on his former employers and Steve Bruce in particular, the man who released him, and can be backed at 5/1 to score the first goal and 5/4 to score anytime.

Sunderland could start the match with a three Ghanaians in their line up as Sulley Muntari and John Mensah are poised to play alongside striker Asamoah Gyan . Muntari (10/1 First scorer,7/2 Anytime), the former Portsmouth and Inter midfielder, joined Sunderland on loan recently and will be looking to stamp his authority on the centre of the park and create the space to unleash his explosive shooting.

Gyan (6/1 First, 7/4 Anytime) will more than likely be utilised as a lone striker in the wake of Darren Bent's January move to Aston Villa. His selfless play has not yielded the goals recently that some may say his performances have warranted, with his goal in the Tyne-Wear derby his only strike since January 1st.

The match betting for this game sees Stoke as the favourites at 23/20 and given the recent history in this fixture it is no surprise. The Potters have won their last three home games against Sunderland by a one-goal margin, the price for history to be repeated for a fourth time is 5/2.

Sunderland are a much tighter defensive unit than many pundits give them credit for and have kept an impressive eleven clean sheets in the league this season. Going to Stoke, where an aerial bombardment can crush a fragile backline, could prove a tough test for Bramble, Ferdinand and co. The Black Cats are priced at 5/2 to take all three points back with them.

A stalemate in Staffordshire, which Sunderland would probably take going into the game, can be backed at 11/5.

Stoke could still finish in the top 10 and will contest Brighton for a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals so the Stoke manager Tony Pulis knows that a winning mentality could be a massive advantage at this crucial stage of the campaign.

I think that it will be the red and white of Stoke celebrating come Saturday Afternoon. The 23/20 on offer may be a bit too short and I'd be tempted with the double result of Draw/Stoke at 4/1.
My other recommendation would be the correct score market result of 2-1 to City. Paying out at 8/1, the odd goal in three could decide a tight match.



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