Sunderland v Stoke
Saturday 14 January, 15:00
Sunderland are in the relegation zone in 18th, a point below the last safe spot held by Crystal Palace, but with Swansea now behind them only on goal difference and looking like potential improvers under new boss Paul Clement.
Things were starting to look up for David Moyes before Christmas after a run of four wins in seven matches but his team are winless in four in league and cup since then and in need of a pick-me-up after a rough festive period.
Stoke's recent Premier League form has been solid, bar away defeats against title contenders, and after a slow start they are comfortably in mid-table in 11th place.
But Mark Hughes came in for some sharp criticism after his side were dumped out of the FA Cup in a 2-0 home defeat by Championship outfit Wolves, which was disappointing after he put out a near full-strength line-up.
Since pulling themselves out of their slow start to the season, Stoke have been solid against all bar the elite with a record of W6 D3 L1 in their last 10 games against teams from outside the big six.
That sequence started with a 2-0 home win over Sunderland on October 15 and their only defeat in that category since then was 1-0 at home to Bournemouth in November.
Stoke also rank as one of the most effective performers against bottom-half teams with a record of W6 D3 L2 (W2 D2 L1 away). Along with the home loss to Bournemouth, the only other defeat was 4-1 at Crystal Palace in September, when Hughes's side were struggling and Palace were going well (in an early eighth place).
That gives Stoke a good chance here against a Sunderland side who, as well as being 18th in the overall standings, rank just 17th on home form with a record of W3 D2 L5.
The three wins were all against other teams in the bottom seven (Hull, Leicester and Watford) and Sunderland's home record against teams above that group is W0 D2 L3.
It must be noted, however, that Sunderland have had only one home game so far against the mid-table group (the teams currently eighth to 13th) and that was a draw against West Brom, so it is difficult to gauge how they will perform against opponents such as Stoke.
But it is fair to say their survival prospects may depend on how they fare in this type of match-up at home.
Draw No Bet
On what we know so far this season, Stoke are the most solid team and they rate well on the Draw No Bet at 1.84/5.
The safety net is attractive as Hughes's side are low scorers (nil or one goal scored in 13 of their 20 games) and have quite a high draw rate - the two factors are clearly linked.
But they are strong defensively against this type of opposition and that makes the prospect of victory more likely than defeat.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Stoke are joint-top overall for matches with under 2.5 goals (12 out of 20), while Sunderland are the mirror image with 12 out of 20 over 2.5 goals.
Sunderland's games lean more strongly towards over 2.5 goals at home (seven out of 10) but Stoke's tendency towards low scores is most pronounced when they play any side outside the big six (11 out of 14 under 2.5 goals; five out of six away).
It's a tricky call but it's still surprising that under 2.5 goals is priced as big as 1.9210/11.
Mike Dean, much maligned for his performance in West Ham v Manchester United on January 2, will be under close scrutiny here.
The controversial red card Dean showed to West Ham's Sofiane Feghouli was subsequently rescinded but he still leads the dismissals list among Premier League refs with four, and two of those were given to Sunderland players on the two previous occasions he has taken charge of a Black Cats game this season.
Dean's bookings points came to 85 and 75 in those two Sunderland games, and to 70 in his only previous Stoke match this season, which rather suggests he will not be keeping a low profile here either.
Back Stoke on Draw No Bet at 1.84/5
Jermain Defoe has scored 20 Premier League goals in January. Only Alan Shearer (23) and Frank Lampard (21) have more in PL history during this month. Defoe is 2.3811/8 to score here.