Swansea City v Sunderland - Premier League

Watch Live: Sunderland vs. Stoke City (Lineups and Discussion)

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Two clubs trending in opposite directions meet today at the Stadium of Light, even if both Sunderland and Stoke City find themselves in the Premier League’s bottom five. But whereas the Black Cats have lost only one of their last seven league matches, the Potters haven’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 21.

The two relegation-entangled teams kickoff at 2:45 pm PT, with the game available to stream on NBC Sports Live Extra.

Under Gus Poyet, Sunderland show every sign of surviving their poor start. In addition to pulling the Black Cats within one point of safety, the former Brighton boss has Sunderland in the League Cup final, the team having upset Manchester United in the competition’s semifinals. In league, Sunderland can vault two points clear of Fulham with a win, moving them out of the drop for the first time this season.


For Stoke, relegation worries are becoming more pressing by the round, with the Potters having lost four of their last five Premier League games. Under Mark Hughes, Stoke has tried to move beyond the stalwart but limited approach of their former boss, Tony Pulis. Having slipped to 16th, Stoke’s quickly approaching a point where they’ll have to pass judgment on Hughes’s approach.

In that sense, the Potters may be carrying more pressure into this game, even if Sunderland should be considered favorites. If the Black Cats fall, it will be seen as a setback to a rise that’s gained surprising momentum. If Stoke loses, however, Potters fans will left wondering how far their team will fall.


Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Marcos Alonso, Ki Sung-Yueng, Jack Colback, Sebastian Larsson, Adam Johnson, Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore

Subs: Craig Gardner, Steven Fletcher, Connor Wickham, Ondrej Celustka, Emanuele Giaccherini, Santiago Vergini, Oscar Ustari

Stoke City: Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Erik Pieters, Peter Odemwingie, Steve N’Zonzi, Charlie Adam, Oussama Assaidi, Peter Crouch

Subs: Thomas Sorensen, Marc Muniesa, Wilson Palacios, Marc Arnautovic, Jon Walters, John Guidetti, Stephen Ireland

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.