Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has acknowledged that the visit of David Moyes’ struggling Sunderland is a must-win game for his side.
The Potters and this weekend’s opponents are the only two teams yet to win in the Premier League after seven games, although Stoke earned their first point in 36 years at Old Trafford with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United before the international break.
With pressure increasing on the Welshman, whose winless side have conceded the second-most goals in the league, he admits Stoke need to alleviate some of that scrutiny with a win against Sunderland at the Bet365 Stadium.
“It’s one we need to win,” Hughes admitted, speaking at his pre-match press conference. “We feel we can and I’m confident we have the ability to do that.
“Sunderland are in a situation they don’t want to be in but we’re the home side and the fans will play their part. We’ll need their support again.
“I think we encouraged them with the nature of our performance against West Brom in our last home game. The overall feeling is that we’re going in the right direction.
“But, it’s all well and good saying that, but we have to actually do it.”
The Stoke City boss acknowledged that it won’t be easy for his side as they look to get a first three points on the board, dismissing the idea that they should win the game comfortably.
“It’s not that simple,” he said. “It’s always difficult to win Premier League games. Sunderland have threats on the break and Jermain Defoe, so we have to be vigilant.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re top or bottom, on any given match day any team has game-changing players. Collectively they might not be doing as well as they should be but you have to be on your toes and defensively sound.
“But we’re looking forward to it. This is a good opportunity to get maximum points, everyone has come back in good heart and we can’t wait to get out there.”
Stoke are sweating on the fitness of summer signing Joe Allen. The midfielder has scored three goals in his last three games for club and country but picked up a hamstring problem in Wales’ draw with Austria last week.
Hughes added: “The majority of the squad have come back okay. Joe’s our only doubt and he hasn’t trained as of yet but we’re hoping he will take part today.
“His problem is similar to the lead-up to the West Brom and United games. He didn’t train much then and we were managing him and making sure he was okay. We’ve been managing his work-load and hopefully he can get through it again.”
“He’s had a bit of discomfort and his hamstring tightens up. He hasn’t pulled it. We just need to be a little bit careful.”