What a week, that was then, and at the end of it all, on the day supposedly of rest, we have to take on Stoke City. Stoke are going to give us a hell of a game, and to be honest, I'd rather we were playing someone better. No disrespect to Stoke mind you, in fact if anything it's a compliment as I think at this juncture we're more likely to beat a team like say Manchester United or Arsenal who might take their foot off the gas than a tough bunch of sods like Stoke.
Anyway, there's gonna be changes for us, and changes for them, so here's what we're expecting from Sunderland v Stoke City this week...
Sunderland Team News
More changes! Yippee! And all enforced one way or another to boot. We'll start in goal though, where there appears to be no shifting Simon Mignolet. Mignolet, fairly sloppy this season, but between him and Kieren Westwood it's a bit of a coinflip, so Mignolet will keep the shirt for now, and no doubt the forseeable. He's going to be a busy boy, and arguably our most important player this weekend.
Across the back changes begin. Phil Bardsley is banned for this and the three after it for his ridiculous stamp on Juan Mata last weekend, which of course means it could be Elmohamady time. Something in my spidey-senses says this isn't going to happen however. Steve Bruce has been waffling on about our need to defend set-pieces, whilst John O'Shea was banging on about Stoke over on SAFC.tv, so I'm gonna guess he's fit to play and slot in. Sorry Elmo, maybe next time. The rest of the defence will be as is - Titus Bramble, Wes Brown & Kieran Richardson.
Into the midfield, and is it four? Is it five? Who cares, either way it's not working, and it's likely to be comprised of all the same culprits - Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback, Craig Gardner and Sebastian Larsson. I'd quite like to see David Vaughan in at some point. This midfield isn't working, and I don't think it's exactly a risk bringing him in ahead of say... Cattermole. I'm just putting it out there.
Stoke City Team News
I think we were all praying in a slightly wrongish way that Tony Pulis would take the Europa League a bit more seriously, but he did effectively send a reserve side to the Ukraine, and they performed admirably. As said though, it's unlikely that any of those players are to be heavily involved come Sunday, so we're all a bit screwed.
Everyone knows what Stoke are about, and with the signings they've made this summer they're only going to get better at it. Is it long-ball? Yeah at times. Does it work? Absolutely, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. I wish we were that well drilled to be honest.
As said though, they're a bunch of big buggers, which is why I pointed out I think Simon Mignolet is going to be crucial for us. If he continues to flap, we'll come undone. He needs to either command his box, or hope we have a ref who gives freekicks out like they're going out of style.
Perhaps the most likely route to victory will be stopping the supply, and hopefully combinations of Larsson/O'Shea and Richardson/Sessegnon can keep Matt Etherington and Jermaine Pennant contained. I think those are reasonable match-ups, and with Stoke's fullbacks not prone to bomb on, it's probably our best hope.
Mignolet; O'Shea, Bramble, Brown, Richardson; Larsson, Cattermole, Colback; Sessegnon; Wickham, Bendtner
For this weeks I'm going back only 13 years or so to the 1997/98 season, and a 3-0 home win for the lads. Darren Williams and a brace for Kevin Phillips saw the lads come away with all three points in front of 41,000 fans. Our quest for promotion that year ended at Wembley, I'm sure you don't need reminding. I hope we're not equally sad come full-time on Sunday.
Get Rich Quick
Last week, wrong again. As a staunch gambler though I live in hope that this is the week. Much as I think 'this is the week' every single week with regards to our on-field fortunes, and look how that's turning out. Anyway, this weeks gambles... I don't fancy us to keep a clean sheet. I also don't fancy us to win (please let me be wrong)... I see Nicklas Bendtner scoring... Well done Sherlock, I'm going for a double on Bendtner first goal and 1-1 at odds of 40/1. It's win or bust this week, isn't it Steve? (Oops).
Song For Whoever
In song for whoever we like to hand the baton over to you people to suggest a song relevant to the game, perhaps lyrically or it just gets you pumped up. There were several contributions this week, but ultimately I win with my own contribution. I don't want to put anyone off suggesting their own this week, just a gentle nudge to say up your game ;-)
So, this weeks Song For Whoever comes from the talented, handsome and exceptionally rich Simon Walsh. Quite a fella. Follow him on Twitter - @SimoWalsh. Or actually don't, or you'll have to put up with things like his song choice...
Yes, I went there. I'm that guy. It's Genesis - Land Of Confusion. I'd point to a particularly poignant lyric or something here, but pretty much all of them are spot on. In fact I'll settle on one... "This is the time, This is the place, So we look to the future, But there's not much love to go round, Tell me why, this is a land of confusion" ...Class Spitting Image video too.
Alright then you've had the team news, the betting, the glory days and some tunes. Time to put the money where the mouth is and give a prediction. Well actually as pointed out in the betting section, I'm going for 1-1, and come this section I'm not for turning. 1-1, we'll take the lead only to be dashed at the death by the angular Peter Crouch equalizing. Luckily these are wrong most the time, I hope I'm wrong, but happy come the end of the game.
Ha'way the lads.