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WHAT a difference a week makes. Just nine days after Paolo di Canio followed up a famous win over local rivals Newcastle with a 1-0 defeat of Everton his Sunderland side find themselves right back in the mix for relegation after a disastrous humbling by Aston Villa.
A 6-1 defeat to Paul Lambert's resurgent young team means di Canio must remove the tails from between his players' legs post-haste and get them focused on a visit from Stoke who were themselves in trouble a few short weeks ago before wins over QPR and Norwich put some much-needed distance between them and the drop.
And what of their opponents? Stoke face something of an existential mini-crisis in the coming months as patience with Tony Pulis's free-spending and agricultural football methods starts to wear thin.
What do they want to be as a team? Are they happy to finish mid-table every single season while playing unattractive football and being portrayed as the bad-guy bully boys of the division, yet at the same time be considered an established Premier League outfit?
Or would fans prefer to twist, thank Pulis for all his work and make a move for a more interesting, progressive manager who can perhaps take them on another stage and knock on the door of European football.
The old adage is fans will tolerate a certain type of football provided it delivers results and the moment the team's performances drop off, fans will turn on the manager much quicker than if his team were knocking it about all day, a la Wigan.
Whatever way that pendulum swings Pulis still has a job to do and a trip to Sunderland is next on the agenda. Di Canio will have been horrified by his side's lacklustre, off-the-pace showing at Villa Park and knows he simply must get a reaction from his team if they are to continue to dine at the top table next year.
He will have seen plenty to suggest the Black Cats can get some sort of result on Monday and despite the two wins that have practically seen them safe Stoke have been largely woeful for quite a long time now – winning just once aside from that since Boxing Day.
There's no getting away from the Stoke are dreadful away from home, having picked up just 12 points all season. Di Canio's rhetoric and passion is likely to inspire the Mackems turn the Stadium of Light into a raging cauldron on and with Stoke all but safe and with nothing much to play for it's hard to look beyond a home win.
I'm tempted to back unders as well. Sunderland don't score many at home and Stoke have notched just 11 times away all season. It's currently trading at 1.65 which seems just about fair.
Back Sunderland to beat Stoke at 2.16
Back under 2.5 Goals at 1.65