The international break is over and that means one thing, waking up obnoxiously early to watch the EPL! There’s a full slate of games this weekend with some really great matchups.
Claudio Ranieri has his first meaningful game for Leicester at his old stomping grounds, Stamford Bridge. The two teams played there on the last day of last season when Leicester were weeks past being crowned champions. Man City vs. Everton is a top-5 matchup featuring a City side that has scored 18 goals (tied for the league lead) and the Toffees who have only conceded five (second best in the EPL). Monday we’ve got the ever juicy matchup of Liverpool and Manchester United, but all of those games pale in comparison to one other: 19th vs. 20th, red and white stripes vs. red and white stripes, Stoke vs. Sunderland. Okay, so it may not be the most exciting game of the weekend, but both teams are looking for their first win of the season, and I think Sunderland could steal it.
Stoke have had an awful start to home life this season with one draw, two losses and a -7 goal differential. Yes, they’ve already played Man City and Spurs at home; no, that does not excuse their Swiss cheese like defense that has conceded nine goals in three games (16 in seven total, 2nd worst in the EPL). On the offensive side of the ball, Stoke have the talent to score goals, but their five in the league is tied for the worst. Breaking away from actual goals and looking at expected goals doesn’t really help Stoke either. Thus far, they have conceded 1.78 cQxG per game (17th in the EPL) while creating only 0.89 (16th). Adding injury to insult, Glen Johnson will not play for Stoke and Joe Allen, who has been very productive for Stoke is doubtful as well. Maybe they’ll be licking their chops with the one team below them in the table coming to town, but Sunderland have shown some signs of life lately.
Sunderland started the month of September getting shellacked by Everton 3-0. They improved upon that result with a 1-0 loss to Spurs conceding after a failed clearance by Papy Djilobodji, but they were still shutout. Then the offense got going, opening a 2-0 lead against Palace, only to concede three goals in the second half to walk away with nothing. Finally, they got a point against West Brom before the international break with a 1-1 draw. Though not exactly the best results, Sunderland have been improving and their cQxG numbers back that up. The graph below shows their cQxG minus that of their opponent.
They closed the gap against Spurs after being miles from Everton, were a whisker behind Palace and created more than West Brom. Stoke are still the heavy favorites against a side that’s only managed two draws this season, but if Sunderland can keep trending up, they’ll have a great shot at stealing a result this weekend against a seriously underperforming Stoke side.