Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our live coverage as Sunderland welcome Stoke City
to the Stadium of Light in the Premier League. Sunderland are still searching for their first win of the new campaign, while travelling Stoke are looking to build from a promising start that has seen them defeat league champions Manchester City and Alan Pardew's struggling Newcastle United.
Today's hosts are all too aware of the anxiety caused by winless runs, with the Black Cats suffering at the hands of a torrid stretch at the start of last season, which saw them claim just one point from the first 24 on offer.
Poyet's men are greatly improved this time around though, and they've certainly bettered themselves in comparison to this point last campaign, where they'd had lost five and drawn one of their first six Premier League games.
However, the greatest concern for Sunderland going into today's game is that they've yet to claim three points from any of their last last seven Premier League encounters, with Steven Fletcher
failing to score in 2014 and last season's hero Connor Wickham still to open his account in the domestic league this season.
Stoke, on the other hand, will be feeling more confident. Early signs show that they seem to have banished the away-game ghosts that haunted most of their travelling fixtures last campaign. As it stands, they've so far collected five away points from nine, including a win at Man City, while last season they only managed to notch 14 points on the road.
Such is their current turnaround in away form, a victory or draw today will see the Potteries equal their top-flight record of six consecutive away matches without defeat.
Though what will stick out in the mind of Hughes this afternoon is that Stoke have never won on Wearside in the Premier League, having lost two games and drawn four.
The visitors won't be too down on that stat, however, given that they recently beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Stadium of Light last month to knock them out of the League Cup. That victory was their first in 13 against the Black Cats.
Some team news for you now...
SUNDERLAND STARTING XI: Mannone; Jones, van Aanholt, Vergini, O'Shea; Cattermole, Larsson, Gomez, Buckley; Wickham, Fletcher
SUNDERLAND SUBSTITUTES: Bridcutt, Brown, Rodwell, Johnson, Altidore, Mavrias, Pantilimon
STOKE CITY STARTING XI: Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Muniesa; Nzonzi, Whelan; Arnautovic, Adam, Moses; Crouch
STOKE CITY SUBSTITUTES: Sorensen; Pieters, Huth, Ireland, Walters, Assaidi, Bojan
Two changes for the hosts this afternoon then, as Jack Rodwell
is replaced by Jordi Gomez
and Adam Johnson
by Steven Fletcher.
Gomez is to join a four-man midfield that is made up from Lee Cattermole
, Will Buckley
and Sebastian Larsson
. Fletcher will start up top as part of a pairing with the still goal-searching Wickham.
Stoke have kept their faith in the in-form presence of Peter Crouch
as a lone striker, with support coming from an attacking three of Victor Moses
, Marko Arnautovic
and Charlie Adam. The visitors' frontline will be supported by two sitting midfielders in the shape of Glenn Whelan
and Steven N'Zonzi
The hosts have also welcomed back Wes Brown from injury, though he only makes the bench, while captain John O'Shea will lead his side from the back.
As expected Stoke are without the services of Mame Biram Diouf
, while Sunderland are also missing Emanuele Giaccherini who is still suffering from an ankle problem.
The Black Cats will be looking for a positive start in the first half as they look to secure three points at home. So far this season Poyet's men have yet to take a lead into half time in the Premier League.
Goals have been a slight issue for Sunderland as well as Stoke, with both sides only notching five in the Premier League. There are only three other sides to have scored less: Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa and Burnley.
Stoke's Crouch could be the player to watch this afternoon, especially the striker's head. The frontman has scored more times with headers than any other form of goal. He's notched 11 with his head for Stoke, 10 with his right foot and five with his left.
If you're looking to history to help figure out the outcome of today's encounter, you'll see that Stoke have only won seven of their 66 league matches when visiting Sunderland across the club's history.
The Black Cats may also want to be wary of Moses in this encounter, with the playmaker having notched two assists across four games since joining Stoke, despite only setting up one goal in 42 Premier League matches while turning out for Chelsea and Liverpool in the past.
Sunderland are no slouches themselves and they've defended superbly this campaign. They've only lost once so far this season having already had to deal with the likes of both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Poyet will be looking to Wickham for goals, with the manager already giving his backing to the former Ipswich Town striker:
"I actually think he is playing better than he did last year, but he is scoring fewer goals. It's about finding a balance. We don't want him to be the best player on the pitch every week without scoring, but nor do we want him to be awful and scoring a goal every now and then. He needs to find the balance between playing well and scoring - and he will get there."
Meanwhile, Stoke boss Hughes has told his players to use the club's recent results history as a springboard for victory this afternoon, he told the Daily Mail
"We're very much in a positive frame of mind after Monday and we're going into a game against opponents we have played quite recently and overcome. It's different in the Premier League - they will make changes and we probably will as well - and they will want to make amends but that may help us to a certain extent because we will always be a threat on the break."
Just under 10 minutes to go until kickoff at the Stadium of Light now and it's time for me to give a prediction. I've got a feeling the hosts might bag their first three points of the campaign. The pace of Diouf will be missed by Stoke and I'm fancying both Wickham and Fletcher to come good. I'm going to say 2-1 Sunderland.
The players have just emerged from the tunnel and are now making their way out onto the pitch. The atmosphere is electric as per usual up north, as songs ring out around the ground. The Sunderland fans are particularly loud.
KICKOFF! Stoke get us underway then, kicking from right to left in their away blue strip. Neil Swarbrick is the referee today.
Some nice play from Sunderland sees them work the ball out with a quick burst from midfield. The ball lands with Buckley who is dispossessed for a corner. The resulting kick lands at the feet of Billy Jones, whose long-range effort is deflected clear on its way to goal.
Not too much from Stoke early on. They've had the chance to get it down and play, but have instead been pressured into hoofing long for Crouch.
GOAL! Sunderland 1-0 Stoke City (Connor Wickham)
And they're in front! Sunderland take the lead and it's all down to Fletcher who does brilliantly to get to the byline and dink a lovely ball into the box for an onrushing Wickham. He gets the beating of two defenders to head home unchallenged from the centre of the box.
Stoke have only get themselves to blame so far. In the build up to that goal they gave the ball away hideously in midfield and Hughes is looking livid on the touchline.
The visitors put their first few passes together properly after eight minutes of football... Crouch is the man who has to drop deep to setup the move and Stoke subsequently lose the ball as they try to feed it forward to an empty frontline.
The Black Cats have pressed brilliantly in these opening stages and it's an intensity that is really paying off. They snatch the ball back in midfield and go on the counter, but van Aanholt is tackled at the vital moment as he looks to put in a cross.
Bit of waste here from Buckley. The winger pulls into the centre of the pitch and drops deep from his marker. He's in acres of space with time to pick out a forward pass. Instead he tries a smart first-time flick, which is easily read by O'Shea who steps in to clear.
Moses shows what he's all about for the visitors as he gets the beating of the full-back with pace and flashes a low, drilled cross across the face of goal. However, Mannone is quick to get down and smother the ball.
GOAL! Sunderland 1-1 Stoke City (Charlie Adam)
Oh no, terrible from the hosts. Buckley is flagged offside down in the corner with the free kick being pumped long to Moses on the left wing. He uses his skill to beat Jordi Gomez, before feeding in Adam who still has plenty of work to do. He takes the ball forward into the edge of the area as he gets the beating of one defender. The midfielder then shapes to shoot and uses the second man as a decoy to block the keeper's view and drill a great finish across goal into the bottom corner.
Moses appears hurt after helping to create that goal. He's replaced by Oussama Assaidi
Things haven't been the classiest this afternoon and after that goal the game descends into a bit of a scrap. Stoke look to build from the middle but N'Zonzi miss controls and Sunderland win the ball back with ease.
Great skill from Buckley inside his own half as he flicks the ball around Muniesa as the Black Cats try to break away. The full-back is having none of it though and he pulls the winger to the ground.
GOAL! Sunderland 2-1 Stoke City (Steven Fletcher)
Both Sunderland strikers are on the scoresheet this afternoon. Fletcher scores his first goal of 2014 from a corner whipped in by Gomez, leaving the striker to rise highest and head home past a helpless Begovic into the bottom right corner.
YELLOW CARD! Muniesa is given a yellow after the referee loses his patience following a number of poor tackles. He's had it coming, really...
SAVE! Mannone pulls out a good save to deny Adam from a free kick. The midfielder lines his kick up out on the right flank, with the rest of the players expecting a cross. Adam decides otherwise and whips in a curling effort, with the Sunderland keeper rising to tip the effort over the crossbar.
CLOSE! Fantastic play from Stoke City and they should really be back on level terms. Crouch is at the centre of it as he drops deep to receive the ball. With one touch the striker feeds a chipped pass in behind to Arnautovic, who is put off at the vital moment as he goes to shoot.
Things are still end-to-end in this fixture and it's mainly due to a lack of real quality in midfield so far. Both sides are conceding possession far too easily, leaving the other side to break away on the counter at pace
Stoke are not out of this by a long shot, there are plenty of holes in the Sunderland midfield at the moment, but they do look threatening going forward. This time Larsson breaks and looks to feed in Fletcher on the edge of the box, but the striker doesn't comply as he can't control and Shawcross steps in to sweep things up.
SAVE! Wow. What an effort from Buckley. He's probably meant to cross this one, but the winger throws in some sort of effort that loops wildly and heads for the roof of the net until Begovic smartly tips over the crossbar. That would've been some goal...
Major spell of possession for Sunderland and it almost pays off as they win a free kick down in the corner. Larsson sends in a great cross with pace, but Wilson makes a create block to send the ball away from corner with Fletcher lurking for the rebound.
Crouch shows his nasty side as he has a few nibbles at Vergini who makes a huge meal of things. The striker escapes a card though... Welcome rounded boos from the Stoke contingent when he receives the ball in possession.
Cattermole has shown great commitment in midfield in the first 45 minutes. He's always been on-hand to break up play when Stoke look to break. It's a minor miracle he hasn't been shown a card yet given how many tackles he's looked to make.
This could be a major landmark if Sunderland can take a lead into the break. It would be the first time this season they've led at half time. Crouch has other ideas though as he turns in an acrobatic half volley, which Mannone stops with a great save down low with one hand.
HALF TIME: SUNDERLAND 2-1 STOKE CITY
Great boost for the Black Cats, they've made it into the break with a 2-1 lead over Stoke. It's the first time this season that Poyet's men have led at half time. Both sides have had some good chances, but the quality on show hasn't been that great. Fletcher has turned the game on its head with some great vision, positioning and finishing, however Crouch looks dangerous for Stoke and Mannone has done well to keep his side ahead.
Sunderland might just deserve to be in front thanks to some clever forward play and smart goalkeeping. There's still plenty to be had in this fixture, with Stoke's midfield looking particularly porous in the first half. N'Zonzi has been rather poor, giving the ball away far too often and then failing to win it back.
Muniesa looks like the big weak link in the Stoke side at the moment and he appears troubled by the pace and guile of Buckley. City's wingers will need to get a foothold in this game too, with Crouch doing most of the attacking work single-handedly.
The half-time statistics portray a slightly different image, with Stoke leading possession with 62% and a greater passing accuracy of 82% too. Sunderland, meanwhile, have scored from both of their attempts on target.
Stoke have looked to move the ball around this afternoon, with the visitors having completed 199 passes in comparison to Sunderland's 96.
The players are back out on the pitch at the Stadium of Light as we await the start of the second half.
Sunderland get things back underway, with the hosts leading this encounter 2-1, courtesy of goals from Wickham and Fletcher.
The home side are quickest out of the traps so far and they're pressing again with real intensity. This time Buckley puts Wilson under pressure and forces him to give up possession for a throw.
Ooh, that could've been interesting! Van Aanholt breaks forward and has acres of green space to run into. He marauds forward unchallenged as the fans beg him to shoot. The defender willingly obliges with a thunderous effort, which crashes straight into an onrushing defender.
Wickham is looking lively again at the start of the second half. The striker drops deep and looks to feed Buckley in behind on the turn. It's a great pass but Buckley doesn't quite have the strength to fight of Shawcross who clears.
Gomez is a very luck boy as he gives the ball away horribly in midfield. The playmaker hands the ball straight to Crouch and he takes it forward. Luckily Sunderland have men back and they crowd out the striker who looks for Adam on the overlap.
Nothing much to write home about for Stoke in the early stages of the second half, though they're slowly growing back into the game. They share a nice spell of possession, but van Aanholt steals the ball and takes it forward for Sunderland, only to be tackled with little options in sight.
Arnautovic has disappointed up until this point. This time he has time on the ball down the right, but offers up little to go by in attack with van Aanholt simply jockeying the winger before forcing an error from the Austrian.
Stoke haven't given this up though and N'Zonzi finds himself with a bit of space outside of the box. Instead of looking for a more adroit pass, he has a go from distance... which is well wide of the target. Crouch doesn't look too impressed.
Larsson almost gives his side a comfortable lead with some great play down the left. He beats the full-back with skill before flashing a cross in towards Fletcher, who just can't get a toe to the ball as it runs out for a goal kick. Poyet decides to bring on Adam Johnson
in place of Buckley. Sunderland are going for the kill, it seems.
The visitors might benefit from another man helping out Crouch up top. This time Shawcross sends in a floated ball for the frontman, who wins the knock-down only to see none of his teammates follow it up.
YELLOW CARDS! Stoke's Assaidi is shown a yellow for a poor tackle on Fletcher on the right wing, before Sunderland's Billy Jones is given a yellow for a reckless tackle too.
Frustrations might be beginning to tell for Stoke. They have the ball outside the box and can't seem to break the Sunderland defence down. Bardsley gets a little bored with proceedings and has a wild go from distance, which flies high and wide of Mannone's goal.
YELLOW CARD! Bardsley goes into the book for a poor lunge on van Aanholt.
ANOTHER YELLOW! Van Aanholt goes into the book now, with the referee growing a little impatient with the challenges on show here.
Good work from Johnson deep on the right sees the winger feed in Wickham further down the pitch. He beats the defender and whips in a cross, however Begovic claims ahead of Fletcher's darted run.
YELLOW CARD! Fletcher shows his tiredness with a rusty tackle which earns him a yellow. As that happens, Bojan is introduced in place of Whelan for Stoke.
SUBSTITUTES: Poyet looks to shore things up in the middle as Rodwell and Bridcutt come on to replace Larsson and Gomez.
We're into the final 20 minutes of the game and Stoke are still in the fixture. This could go either way. The next goal will decide the outcome for sure.
SAVE! Bojan has looked creative since coming on and he starts a move just outside of the box. The ball ends up at the feet of Assaidi on the left, who jinks inside and pops off a shot towards goal, leaving Mannone to pull out a good save down low to his right.
SUBSTITUTE: Crouch is replaced by Walters and it looks like the frontman has picked up a knock. He's been their best player today.
GOAL! SUNDERLAND 3-1 STOKE CITY (STEVEN FLETCHER)
Game, set and match - surely? It's all Wickham too as he sprints the length of the Stoke half with the ball before carrying it into the box. He evades one challenge before squaring a pass back across the face of the box where last-man Fletcher is on hand to open up his body and side foot into the roof of the net. Wonderful play from the youngster and a great finish from his strike partner, who has now bagged a brace.
Stoke do their best to get back into it despite surely being gone as Adam turns in a dangerous cross into the box, leaving Vergini to make a terrific interception on the slide.
The hosts look to take the sting out of the game, but Wickham has other ideas as he tries to break down the left. Stoke win the ball back and seek Bardsley on the overlap, but van Aanholt gets across to cut out the pass and hoof clear.
Hughes hasn't really covered himself in glory today. Stoke were well in this up until the Fletcher goal, with the Stoke manager failing to make any positive changes. Replacing an ineffectual Arnautovic would've been a good start.
Sunderland are doing their utmost to maintain the ball with Rodwell and Fletcher working hard down in the right-hand corner. Cattermole gets caught in midfield, but Stoke fail to take advantage as van Aanholt steps across to cover his teammate.
Four minutes of additional time have been announced at the Stadium of Light. I doubt Stoke will find a route back into this. The visitors lump the ball into the box from a corner, with Wilson scrambling at the back post. However, as they have done all afternoon, the Sunderland defence clear resolutely.
FULL TIME: SUNDERLAND 3-1 STOKE CITY
There we have it, then: Sunderland record their first victory of the Premier League season and they've certainly deserved it. Stoke were far from their best this afternoon, but some classy play from Wickham and Fletcher and a standout defensive performance at the back has ensured Poyet can go home smiling, along with all of the Sunderland fans too.