Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Sunderland

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  • Chelsea boast a 12W-2D-1L record in past 15 versus West Ham
  • West Ham is 1W-1D-5L in last seven road PL matches
  • Hammers outscored 19-4 across January competitions in 2014

It’s not even February in the crowded bottom half of the Premier League table, but there’s no question Wednesday’s relegation scrap between Stoke City and Sunderland could send the fortunes of each club in either direction (Watch at 2:45pm ET on on NBC Sports Live Extra).

While a win pulls Sunderland out of the relegation zone and moves them to within a point of the Potters, Stoke needs all three points considering their upcoming fixtures.

The 21 points Stoke had a few weeks ago was able to keep Potter pulses in check, but having 22 after this one would send heart rates soaring with Manchester United, Southampton, Manchester City and Arsenal opponents in four of their next five matches.

Newly-minuted League Cup finalists Sunderland have been on their way up since Gus Poyet took over for embattled boss Paolo di Canio, but they haven’t found their consistency in Premier League play.

Still, the Black Cats’ nine points through their last six matches make for Top Eight form. Their draw at Southampton and win at Everton are nice and all, but draws against fellow scrappers Norwich and Cardiff show safety isn’t built in a day, and a home loss to Aston Villa shows how much work’s left for Poyet.

Then, there’s Stoke City’s one point in five matches. To be fair to the Potters, it’s been a brutal stretch that included a double red card affair with Newcastle in addition to matches with Spurs, Everton and Liverpool. They drew the Toffees, but is the loss to Crystal Palace in their most recent match a symptom of the sick or just another slip up?

The Potters should have Peter Odemwingie available after their swap with Cardiff City for Kenwyne Jones.

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What They’re Saying

Potters boss Mark Hughes on Sunderland: “I saw them against United in the semi and thought they were excellent on the night and fully deserved to go through in my opinion, irrespective of the fact that it needed a penalty shoot-out. They have a lot of confidence behind them at the moment but we’re going there looking to be positive. We want to get back on track in terms of accumulating points on the road; we need to do that sooner rather than later.”

Sunderland’s Fabio Borini on stifling League Cup final thoughts: “We can’t just think about one game. We have four or five games in between which are more important now to stay in the Barclays Premier League. It’s one of the most important weeks of the season. We have got two games that are achievable to get three points. If we could get away with four or six points then it would be a very good week and hopefully we can look forward to the last part of the season.”

Prediction

Stoke’s goal differential (-14) is just one better than Sunderland, so there’s plenty at stake at the Britannia Stadium. It’s improbable you could understate how much this much this match means for both teams, but it seems the lion’s share of the pressure would be on the home side. Expect a heart-pounder with goals to show as the teams draw 2-2.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.