Two teams with contrasting recent fortunes meet when Stoke City travel to Sunderland searching for a first win at the Stadium of Light.
While Sunderland appear galvanised under the stewardship of Gus Poyet and have put together a run of just one defeat in their last seven Premier League games in addition to reaching the League Cup final and the FA Cup fifth round, Stoke are struggling ahead of Wednesday's game.
The Britannia Stadium outfit continue to be inconsistent on their travels in the league and are bidding to avoid a 10th successive away Premier League game without a win and a fifth defeat in a row on the road in all competitions.
Factor in that Stoke's last victory at Sunderland was a 1-0 success in April 1994 – a winless streak stretching 11 matches – and even the most optimistic travelling supporter will be making the trip more in hope than expectation.
Perhaps the most telling statistic of all for Stoke could be that Sunderland, who are second bottom, could be within a point of Mark Hughes' men should Poyet's side secure a victory on Wednesday.
Stoke, who have failed to score in five of their last six away games in all competitions, are unbeaten in their last three encounters with the Wearside club and the return to full fitness of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is a timely boost, as is the potential arrival of striker Peter Odemwingie.
Begovic made his comeback from a month out with a broken finger in the 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea on Sunday and had an immediate impact, producing a string of fine saves.
Odemwingie, meanwhile, is poised to join Stoke as part of the swap deal that should see Kenwyne Jones depart for Cardiff City. Both Cardiff and Stoke will hope to finalise negotiations prior to the midweek Premier League programme.
Stoke manager Hughes believes striker Odemwingie can help his side become more ruthless in attack.
"He's got a little pace which we need to add to our squad and he can play both wide and through the middle," said the Welshman, who looks set to again be without Robert Huth (knee), Matthew Etherington (calf) and Andy Wilkinson (foot).
Poyet made 10 changes to his Sunderland team for the 1-0 home win over non-league Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Cup on Saturday, but will be expected to revert back to his strongest XI for the visit of Stoke. Young striker Connor Wickham has been recalled from a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and could be in contention for a place on the bench.
Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and Carlos Cuellar (hip) remain unavailable as Sunderland bid to avenge the 2-0 away defeat they suffered when the two sides met in November.
One Sunderland player who is likely to be at the centre of attention on Wednesday is midfielder Lee Cattermole, who is a confirmed transfer target for Hughes and Stoke.
|Coach: G. Poyet|
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