Sunderland must stand up to physical Stoke

INTENSITY ... Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio.
INTENSITY ... Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio.

BULLISH Paolo Di Canio insists his players will not be intimidated tonight by a Stoke side renowned for its uncompromising approach to the game.

The Potters’ five-year stay in the Premier League has been based on direct football and a robust style.

And many an opposition player has the bruises to prove that – with Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet saying that this game always presents him with one of his toughest physical challenges of the campaign,

But Sunderland’s head coach says he has every confidence in his players’ ability to stand up and be counted at the Stadium of Light tonight.

“I’m not worried about Stoke’s physical presence,” Di Canio shrugged.

“That is just something you have to accept, you have to go through these situations.

“But people should not think we have not faced this already.

“Chelsea can be a physical side but we stood up to that well down there. Everton too are a physical side with big guys – many over 6ft – but we handled that too.

“My players had a high intensity about them in those games and that meant we could deal with that challenge.

“We have to do the same again against Stoke City tonight, and if we can do it to them like we have done before, we will be all right.”

Di Canio will take his players into this evening’s game still smarting at the 6-1 defeat against Aston Villa a week ago.

And he will remind his players that another such damaging loss is to be avoided at all costs.

More than anything though he will send his team out with one mission only – get the victory which would almost certainly save Sunderland’s Premier League skins.

Wigan Athletic cut the gap between them and Sunderland to just two points on Saturday with their win at West Brom, while Villa have surged clear of the drop zone by following up the mauling of the Black Cats with a vital 2-1 triumph at Norwich City at the weekend.

“We don’t want 0-0,” Di Canio said. “We want a win.

“If the game ends in a draw, we will accept it.

“If the game finishes 0-1 to them, then we will accept it if we have played well.

“But it is obvious we want to win.

“People might look at the statistics and suggest a draw, but usually it doesn’t work out that way – look at our game against Villa, for example, where everyone was expecting a tight game.

“We are looking for a completely different performance from us from that game, and we are looking to win against Stoke.”

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