Preview: Sunderland v Norwich City, Friendly Canaries Could Prove To Be Tricky Foes

Wayne Bridge is likely to be in the Sunderland squad tonight following yesterday's loan move from Manchester City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

And so the dust settles on another transfer window. The ludicrousness of it all was slightly less ludicrous than usual, and Sky Sports News' resident Scotsman Jim White thankfully stopped short of masturbating himself into a deadline-day coma.

With that out of the way, it's back to business as usual. Sunderland welcome Norwich City to the Stadium of Light this evening, looking to avenge their abject 1-2 defeat at Carrow Road back in the warmer climes of September.

Sunderland Team News

The final day of transfer dealings saw two arrivals on Wearside - but neither of them in the form of Kevin Davies, whom many expected to become Martin O'Neill's first signing as Sunderland manager. Instead, that accolade went to Wayne Bridge. Brought in from the Mancunian wilderness, Bridge was signed on loan in time to be available for this evening's game, and will surely go straight into the squad. Fellow new loanee Sotirios Krygiakos [NB. I've had to take some paracetamol after trying to type his name from memory] will not, having signed after the midday deadline.

The Black Cats' ever-growing injury list means Bridge's arrival is something of a Godsend. Wes Brown and David Vaughan have now joined fellow first-teamers Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner on the treatment table, meaning O'Neill will be forced into yet another reshuffle.

Vaughan's absence in the middle will come as a blow, and it is likely that either Jack Colback or David Meyler will take his place, in order to add some bite alongside Craig Gardner. Given that Colback came on against Middlesbrough, the logical bet would be that it is he who starts tonight.

The club's desire to secure the signing of Bridge in time to play this evening could point to him going straight into the starting line-up at left-back. If this does happen, Kieran Richardson - unless he is dropped - could see himself pushed into a midfield position alongside one of Colback or Meyler, with the more attack-minded Gardner possibly missing out. More than likely though, due to his lack of match fitness, is that Bridge will begin his Sunderland career in the dugout.

Elsewhere, Connor Wickham - provided he is deemed fit enough - will likely start up front once more, with Fraizer Campbell left on the bench again in order to ease him back into the first-team frame. At centre-back, Michael Turner will partner John O'Shea in the absence of the aforementioned Brown.

Norwich City Team News

Paul Lambert's visiting Canaries will be thankful that they have no such injury worries to contend with. In fact, the Premier League new boys are likely to welcome a spate of players back to their starting line-up.

John Ruddy is expected to return in goal, ousting youngster Jed Steer - despite the latter's excellent performance at West Brom on Saturday. Meanwhile, Lambert has full-back Kyle Naughton and midfielders Bradley Johnson and Andrew Surman available for selection. Ruddy and Johnson sat out the weekend's FA Cup win as unused substitutes, but both should make returns to the side in this league encounter.

The Canaries' most positive piece of team news, however, comes up front. Having successfully fended off Rangers' attempts to snatch captain Grant Holt from them yesterday, Norwich also welcome back fellow striker Steve Morison. The two have contributed a total of 18 goals between them already this season, and have been integral in seeing their side rise to tenth in the table.

Predicted Line-ups

SAFC: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson; Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Wickham

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Whitbread, Ayala, Naughton; Surman, Fox, Johnson, Pilkington; Holt, Morison

Classic Encounter

These two sides haven't met since Sunderland's promotion-winning season of 2006/07, when the sides traded 1-0 home victories.

However, matches between the two are often anticipated, ever since the 1985 Milk Cup Final - known by many as the "the friendly final". Sunderland, in a move that was well in keeping with their general abjectness in the 1980s lost to their new-found friends 0-1, a Gordon Chisholm own goal enough to ensure the cup went to Norfolk instead of the north-east.

A missed Clive Walker penalty compounded the Wearsiders' misery, but perhaps the abiding memory of the day was the spirit in which the game was played - both on and off the field. 90,000 packed into the old Wembley, and the video below is a spine-tingling example of the atmosphere Sunderland's travelling hordes managed to generate:

Get Rich Quick

Norwich have now won their last three away games and unbeaten in five, so a Sunderland win is by no means a foregone conclusion (let's be honest, it never is). However, here at Roker Report we like to think positive, so here's some positive flutters you may fancy:

  • Prior to September's game, each of the previous five encounters between Sunderland and Norwich had ended in a 1-0 home win. A 1-0 Sunderland victory is priced at roughly 7/1.

  • Craig Gardner's reported homesickness has done little to deter him from finding the net, with two wondergoals this month coming against Wigan and Swansea. The ex-Birmingham man is priced at 12/1 to open the game's scoring. Alternatively, you may fancy Wayne Bridge to make a glorious start to his Sunderland career - bookies are offering odds of roughly 33/1 for Bridge to be the game's first goalscorer.

  • Sunderland's poor opening half performance on Sunday saw them trail at the break. Buoyed by a Martin O'Neill teamtalk, they came out in the second half and salvaged a draw - and could very nearly have won it. If you fancy the visitors to lead after 45 minutes but the red and whites to come back and secure all three points, a half-time/full-time bet of Norwich/Sunderland sees odds of around 25/1.

Song For Whoever

The likelihood is that no one will ever have heard of this week's ever-anticipated preview song. However, a bit of research threw it up, and it seems the most fitting to the occasion.

Bearing in mind the two sets of supporters' priorly stated fondness for one another, a song named 'Love on the Terraces', by a band from Norwich itself, fit the bill perfectly. That that band's name was 'Serious Drinking' overwhelmingly sealed the decision for me - I am a student after all.

Prediction

Boasting a potent strike force and two solid units of four behind that, Norwich will provide Sunderland with a firm test. The game is likely to be a tense affair, with any victory likely to come by no more than a single goal. With that in mind, we'll go for a 1-0 home win.

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