Despite victory over Crystal Palace this week, Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce says his side are “still sinking” in the Premier League ahead of Saturday’s clash with Stoke City.
Jermain Defoe’s late winner ensured Sunderland a first away victory of the campaign at Selhurst Park on Monday to lift Allardyce’s men to 18th in the table as they prepare to face an opponent they have traditionally fared well against.
Sunderland have lost just one of their last eight Premier League matches against Stoke, although the visitors boast five clean sheets from their last six league outings.
Allardyce – who is set to have striking pair Defoe and Fabio Borini available after ankle problems – warned his side they have plenty of work still to do.
“[The Palace result] was a big bonus for us,” said the former West Ham boss, who will be without suspended defender Billy Jones.
“And the way we achieved it shows me the lads have got plenty of fight in their bellies. We’re going to need a lot of fight and grit to get out of the position we’re in.
“We’re still very much underwater, we’re still sinking a little bit but we’ve come to the surface a bit more. But the most important thing is if we can be difficult to beat, difficult to score against as all successful clubs are.
“That is the main priority, the first step.”
Mark Hughes’ Stoke have found form of late, losing just one of their last 10 games across all competitions to sit 11th in the Premier League.
Stoke have not conceded in their three league games since captain Ryan Shawcross returned from a back injury and their impressive defending stands them in good stead to end a poor record against Saturday’s hosts.
Hughes is hopeful of having Philipp Wollscheid fit following a pelvis problem and said on Thursday: “We’re in a good place at the moment, one defeat in 10 games in all competitions so not many teams are in as good form as us.
“We have a good balance, maybe three or four players have had good games on an individual basis but perhaps not all at the same time.
“We certainly have the potential for that to happen though. You have to have players who can make a difference.
“There is more to come from us, they haven’t all clicked at the same time.”