Preview: Can Sunderland Take Advantage Of Their Generous Hosts This Weekend?

I'm sure there's room alongside Robin Van Persie in O'Shea's pocket for one more striker...

Having secured their spot in the FA Cup Quarter Finals last week with a faultless display against Arsenal, Martin O'Neill's side now return to Premier League action against Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion, who's home form has left their fans with little to shout about this term. The Sunderland squad will no doubt be full of confidence going into Saturday's game and you wouldn't bet against them coming away with the full compliment of three points.

Join us now as we preview the game in the only way we know how here on Roker Report. No not haphazardly and poorly but with team news, predicted line-ups, a classic encounter, some sound betting advice and a nice little song to go along with it all.

SAFC Team News

O'Neill was given a double fitness boost this week in the shape of David Vaughan and Nicklas Bendtner. The former broke the news yesterday morning on Twitter:

"First day back in full training, ankle felt good. Looking forward to the weekend and the Wales game on Wednesday."

The gaffer himself broke the news that the club had finally managed to piece together Nicklas' face and that the Dane had been "training fully for some considerable time" and was working his way back into contention for tomorrow's game. To be honest I'd be surprised to see either make the starting eleven but will be welcome options from the bench.

One other report that did filter out from the club this week was with regards to everyone's favourite SAFC right-back, no not you Bardsley but Marcos Angeleri and his on-going rehabilitation following his knee operation in the summer. Not exactly breaking news but O'Neill felt the need to express his sympathy for the beautiful one this week for some reason.

The major talking point for tomorrow's team will centre on the formation employed by O'Neill. A 4-5-1 has been the policy for the recent games against Arsenal with mixed results. However the midfield five were superb in the Cup tie, adequately supporting Sessegnon whenever possible and putting the Gunners under a lot of pressure. O'Neill may well be tempted to keep things as they are and apply the same pressure to a side who's poor home form is well documented or Fraizer Campbell could well be recalled to reprise the counter-attacking game we have become accustomed to since his O'Neill's arrival and form a two man forward line.

As discussed on this week's Roker Report Podcast Lee Cattermole currently sits on nine yellow cards, which means a booking would see him suspended for the upcoming derby with that lot up the road. Whilst we were unable to agree on whether on not he should be "risked" for this game or protected there is certainly a decision there to be made. It would unquestionably be harsh to drop the captain following his magnificent performance last time out and I would expect to see Lee in the starting eleven.

WBA Team News

The major injury news to come out of West Brom this week concerned their influential and one-time Sunderland transfer target Paul Scharner. The Austrian was substituted at half-time last weekend during his side's decisive 5-1 win over Wolves at Molineaux with a rib injury and is not expected to make an appearance this weekend.

There has been some good news for old Roy however as Shane Long is expected to be fit for selection although Marc-Antoine Fortune's recent from may see the Irishman have to be content with a place on the bench. The impressive Chris Brunt has also made a return to training following a lay-off due to an ankle injury although it is
very unlikely he will be involved with Hodgson likely to ease him back in rather than risk further damage to the ankle.

Predicted Lineups

WBA: Foster, Ridgewell, Olsson, McAuley, Reid, Thomas, Andrews, Mulumbu, Morrison, Fortune, Odemwingie

SAFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, McClean, Sessegnon, Campbell

Classic Encounter

The 2002/03 season was one that we would all rather forget. Reid was sacked in the October and replaced by the managerial dream team of Howard Wilkinson and Steve Cotterill and Kevin Phillips was clearly disillusioned with life at the Stadium of Light, with promises made to the talismatic forward unfulfilled. With Sunderland trailing 2-0 at

The Hawthornes one afternoon in December courtesy of goals from former Sunderland hitman Danny Dichio and a well struck Jason Koumas freekick it was looking to be another bleak day for the Black Cats.

However Kevin Phillips was to shrug off his struggle for both form and goals and haul Sunderland to a score draw with an eight minute second half brace. His first was a typical poachers goal as he latched onto Kevin Kilbane's cross to prod the ball over the line whilst the second was a little more pleasing on the eye as the little fella danced past four West Brom defenders before placing a twenty-yard strike past Russell Hoult.

Get Rich Quick

It's still hard to believe that Sunderland are heading into this game looking to make it five wins out of their last six games and the side's fantastic form gives the fans reason to be hopeful of achieving just that. The fact that The Baggies have lost eight games at home this season and have only managed to find the back of the net nine times only adds to the travelling fans' confidence.

So, where should you be putting your cash this Saturday afternoon? Well I like the look of the following punts:

  • Given the differing fortunes of the two sides in front of goal this season I like the look of Sunderland to win by a margin of two goals which is currently available for around 7/1.
  • Again taking West Brom's poor goalscoring form at The Hawthornes into account there would appear to be value in backing Sunderland to win to nil which is available for around 15/4.
  • Fraizer Campbell will be on cloud nine following his call up to the England squad this week and he is available as an any time goalscorer at around 12/5.

Song For Whoever

There's no doubting O'Neill has found the winning touch on Wearside and lets hope he can do it again this weekend.

Prediction

So good is this run since O'Neill's arrival that when it comes to predicting the outcome of the upcoming games that you really don't want to be the one to jinx it, but, sod it. We're going to win 2-0.

Ha'way the lads!

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