SUNDERLAND’S tactical preparations to face Stoke City have been more rigorous than usual this week.
Stoke triumphed at the Stadium of Light last week in the Capital One Cup and have taken five points from their three games on the road in the Premier League this season - including a victory against Manchester City.
Gus Poyet expects another tight encounter against the Potters tomorrow, but says Sunderland been working intensely on the training ground to combat the counter-attacking style which has become the noticeable characteristic of Mark Hughes’ side this season.
The Sunderland boss said: “We’ve been working on more tactical work this week, more than other weeks.
“Stoke play a specific game, that’s quite easy to see now.
“They still have power and size and are difficult from set plays. (Peter) Crouch is doing well from crosses, using his body and his hands very well!
“I think they are a very difficult team to play against when they score because they have a perfect path on the break.
“We need to make sure we score first, so they open up and then there’s going to be spaces.
“It’s a tricky game. It could be quite tactical and it’s going to be tight.”
Poyet has been impressed by the change of style overseen by his former Chelsea team-mate Hughes after succeeding long-time Stoke manager Tony Pulis in the summer of 2013.
Hughes has injected pace into Stoke’s attacking ranks in the likes of Victor Moses, Oussama Assaidi, Marko Arnautovic and Mame Biram Diouf – albeit the latter is ruled out of tomorrow’s game through injury – and that has made the Potters a threat on the break.
“It’s not easy to play against them,” added Poyet.
“Last year, it looked like he (Hughes) wanted to control the game more in terms of passing.
“Now he’s looking to get deep and break and they’ve been impressive in that.
“It’s a great option if you’ve got the right players and it’s been working, so I can’t see them changing.
“They lost Diouf the other day through injury, but they’ve got options with Arnatuovic and Assaidi.”