Preview: Sunderland v Birmingham City (A)

Oh that's nice. Steve Bruce has "Backed us to beat the drop"... I'd bloody hope so too! Well Steve, this all starts at St Andrews on Saturday when we take on Carling Cup winners; Birmingham City. Themselves hoping to "beat the drop."

Steve has waffled on about us having enough quality, an "easier run in" and bemoaned injury luck. Things I've also put our recent loss of form down to too, so I'm not gonna pick on him for that. However if there was a time when we needed everyone to step up, then the time is now.

I think this game is a tough one, even prior to going on this terrible run. All I can say is I'm not particularly confident, and that's reflected in my prediction. The good news for SAFC fans however is that I'm usually wrong, so I hope that trend continues...

SAFC Team News

It looks as though we're set to persist with 4-4-2 tomorrow, even if it is somewhat to my chagrin. 4-5-1 is fine, when done properly, Bruce just doesn't seem to understand how. Not to worry, lets build a team...

In goal, much to everyones shock (sic) Simon Mignolet continues in goal ahead of Craig Gordon, while the defence is in for yet another re-jig.

John Mensah is out for at least three weeks with a Hamstring injury. No surprise there, so it looks like patchwork players and a tremendous amount of hope. Phil Bardsley (slight injury) Anton Ferdinand (slight injury) Michael Turner (just back from injury) and Nedum Onuoha (just back from injury) all set to start in some sort of combination.

As a guessing man, I'd say Nedum at RB, Bardsley at LB, with Turner and Ferdinand in the middle. There are doubts over the fitness of Ferdiannd, but frankly we've got nobody else, so he's gonna have to suck it up and play through it.

There's also the potential to go mental at the back adding Ahmed Elmohamady and shifting Nedum Onuoha along to CB if Ferdinand doesn't make it, or even drop Kieran Richardson (also injured) into left back. Guess we'll have to wait and see, but the above paragraph looks most likely.

If we don't see a return of Richardson, who will take his place in the middle? Henderson? Muntari? No wait, he's injured, erm... Zenden? Riveros? Of course not, it's a "must win" game, lets opt for Jack Colback. It's looking likely that the ginger midfield man will make his first start (I think) for us alongside Lee Cattermole. The pair of them flanked by Jordan Henderson or Ahmed Elmohamady and Stephane Sessegnon on the other side.

Potent, attacking, young, youthful, stupid, crazy, dangerous? All of the above your honor. Lets hope that change is good.

Up top you'll see Asamoah Gyan & Danny Welbeck. What, who else were you expecting?

Some bench-time too should come for Blair Adams, Craig Lynch & Billy Knott as at least the Academy shows signs of life.

Bruce's Probable Team:
Mignolet; Onuoha, Ferdinand, Turner, Bardsley; Cattermole, Henderson, Colback, Sessegnon; Welbeck; Gyan

My Team:
Mignolet; Elmohamady, Onuoha, Turner, Bardsley; Cattermole, Zenden; Henderson, Sessegnon, Welbeck; Gyan

From the Birmingham City side

As heard on the Podcast, some of us here are worried about the threat of Nikola Zigic. Not me to be honest, he's big he's massive, and we should expect the ball in the air a lot, so obviously the key is not letting him knock it down for Cameron Jerome, Kevin Phillips & Co. This is where (I pray) Michael Turner steps up. He was abysmal at the weekend gone, however I'm holding on to the fact that if he's good at one thing... just one thing... then it's heading the ball away. Try and keep Turner tight to Zigic, and we could be ok.

Jerome gives me more bother, not the best finisher, but he's got the pace and power to no doubt bumble through our defence and get a goal or two.

As for giving us some hope, I'd like to hope someone like Sessegnon could dominate his side of the pitch, and really use some of these lesser-seen 'skillz' to outwit the aging Stephen Carr.

The rest of the midfield will, as I say every week, will have to get forward more and support Gyan/Welbeck/Gyan&Welbeck because they just don't look interested at the moment.

Prediction

Best possible outcome? A draw. I thought this was a hard game prior to the struggles, and prior to the injury list, and my opinion isn't changed. I really can't see anyway in which we win. So much so to the point where my head is predicting a 2-0 defeat for us.

The biggest hope here readers is that my predictions have been wrong pretty much all season. Lets hope that continues.

Ha'way the lads.

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