Preview: Can Lightning Strike Twice With Sunderland And City?

Clive Brunskill

Ho ho ho. No doubt there's a few sore heads about this morning but that could all go away if Sunderland can get some unlikely Christmas cheer with a win against Manchester City today. Hey, it's happened before, so why not do it again? Join us as we preview all the action

Sunderland Team News

Martin O'Neill will be looking to keep things straight-forward after the win against Southampton last time out as we try to pull ourselves even further up the table and out of any relegation mire before it gets a little too heavy.

Things look set to be fairly obvious with how we'll line up. Simon Mignolet between the sticks, and a back four in front of him of Carlos Cuellar, Craig Gardner, John O'Shea and Danny Rose.

Jack Colback was pretty poor away at City earlier in the season and was completely out-powered by Yaya Toure. He'll likely lineup in midfield gain, but Martin O'Neill has a decision on his hands as to who to start alongside him. Seb Larsson suffered a knock against Southampton and David Meyler is suspended having picked up his fifth yellow card in his final game for Hull City at the weekend gone.

Steven Fletcher should be fit to start this one, but Connor Wickham will be hungry and waiting in the wings if he can't get himself together in time.

Manchester City Team News

Roberto Mancini is likely to name a strong lineup for this one despite the run of several games in as many days, but one area where he might be tempted to tinker is in attack and giving a start to 'super-sub' Edin Dzeko.

Another are might be at full back with Kolarov rated at 50-50 for the game, and Maicon just sort of sitting around doing little, there could be further rotation, but we don't envisage it.

Elsewhere though it's likely to be a case of 'as you were' with a rut of injuries forcing Kolo Toure back into contention for the first team as club captain Vincent Kompany continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

Samir Nasri remains a doubt having recently picked up a knock but could feature. Jack Rodwell, Micah Richards and James Milner remain long-term doubts though and will surely miss out.

Predicted Lineups

SAFC: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Gardner, Colback; Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean; Fletcher

MCFC: Hart; Zabaleta, K.Toure, Nastasic, Clichy; Silva, Nasri, Y.Toure, Barry; Dzeko, Aguero

Key Matchup: Central Midfield Vs Yaya Toure

At the Etihad earlier in the season Jack Colback was completely out-classed and out-muscled by the former Barcelona midfielder. It's unlikely that Colback will be given a central midfield marking job on Toure for this one given that performance, so we're going to be looking at whoever is alongside him to do so. David Meyler would provide the physicality but is suspended, Seb Larsson would provide effort and Craig Gardner. Well he'd probably do something I suppose. Either way whoever is in there needs to shut down Toure.

Recent Form: DLLWW

Draw: Manchester City 1-1 Everton (Fellaini 33, Tevez 43)
Loss: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Manchester City (Scheiber 57)
Loss: Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (Rooney 16, 29, Yaya Toure 60, Zabaleta 86, Van Persie 90)
Win: Newcastle United 1-3 Manchester City (Aguero 10, Garcia 39, Ba 57, Yaya Toure 78)
Win: Manchester City 1-0 Reading (Barry 90)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-0 Manchester City, 01/01/12

Hardly going to forget this one in a hurry are we? Yes it was that famous game in which Ji Dong-Won burst onto the scene and became a household name. For a bit anyway. It wasn't just the fact we took three points off the Champions-elect, we also put in one hell of a performance, with Lee Cattermole simply superb. The breakaway in the final minutes, Seb Larsson out on his feet, a very heavy touch from Ji... and ensuing wild scenes on Wearside still send a shiver down the spine. A one which will live long in the memory.

The Ref: Kevin Friend

Kevin friend has taken charge of ten Permier League games so far this season and has been quite quick to dole out cards. He's dished out thirty five yellows and one red in that time. He's also given out two penalties.

This will be the first time this season that Friend has oversaw a Sunderland game, but he has been in charge of us plenty in the past, officiating twelve games. During that time we've won three, drawn three and lost six, whilst more notably we've been on the receiving end nineteen yellow cards and four red cards.

While he's given us two penalties too, it's far to say he's no Friend of Sunderland... Yes, we're getting that one out the way early.

What The Managers Said

Martin O'Neill:

I know these are over-used words in the game, but that was very important for us because Manchester City at any given stage in that match or in any game, can rip you apart.

We conjured it from somewhere. [Dong-Won] Ji's goal was greeted with an enormous roar, which I shan't forget, and for us to win on the opening day of the calendar year gave us a big boost.

He [Fletcher] has scored important goals. I am not so sure he has scored an unimportant goal for us - every goal we get is important.

I have to say it's not that often that we are winning by three or four goals. His contribution has been fantastic so far.

Roberto Mancini:

I've forgotten everything about Sunderland. We lost the last two games there in the last minute. Always in the last minute. It's better that we don't think about what happened last time.

Both games up there we've played very well, we had lots of chances to score. But we lost both games because we were trying to win in the last second. We were attacking and conceded on two counter attacks. That is our mentality. If we can play like we did last year we have a big chance. But we know it will tough.

Roker Report Predicts

There's no denying it's going to be a very, very difficult game. But as we've proven in the past with the so-called bigger teams, it's far from certain that we're going to get beat. Perhaps the Citizens simply won't fancy the trip to a cold North East a day after filling their face with turkey. Perhaps they'll have an off day. We're certainly going to need that if we're going to get anything, and I think we will.

We're quietly confident that history can repeat itself with a 1-0. Now to work out who'll be this years Ji...

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