TRIPS to the Britannia Stadium have traditionally been grim affairs for Sunderland.
Only one of Sunderland’s five visits to Stoke during the Premier League era has contained more than a solitary goal.
The weather has arguably been more memorable than the football after hundreds of supporters were left stranded in the Potteries by heavy snow two years ago.
But tomorrow’s encounter offers the prospect of a fresh chapter in meetings between the two clubs.
Inevitably, there will still be an element of Sunderland having to doggedly defend a route one approach, while trying to find a way through Stoke’s behemoth back four at the other end.
But the new men in both dug-outs are attempting to dramatically alter the philosophies of the two sides.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes is trying to oversee a more attractive style than predecessor Tony Pulis, while the Potters manager’s former Chelsea team-mate Gus Poyet is beginning to implement a possession-based strategy at Sunderland.
Black Cats head coach Poyet believes that will make for an intriguing spectacle tomorrow in a crunch clash between two of the Premier League’s bottom four.
“It’s about who can impose their new way of playing best,” said Poyet.
“Mark Hughes is trying to change the system at Stoke, while I’m trying to do the same here with the players I’ve got.
“I think it’s going to be a very interesting game and a totally new experience for everyone who has seen Stoke v Sunderland before.”
Optimism has been high among both players and supporters during the international break after Sunderland’s victory over Manchester City 12 days ago.
But after Sunderland fluffed their attempts to build on victory over Newcastle in their last away game at Hull City, Poyet has sounded a note of caution.
The Uruguayan realised the magnitude of this weekend’s clash and says his players need to also grasp the importance of the relegation clash.
Poyet added: “It’s a very important game for us, more important than people think.
“People think that because we won the other day, we’ll be okay. But no, we can’t take it easy.
“We need to make sure that everyone knows how important the game is.
“I want to see that we believe that what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been getting better at, we can do away from home as well.”