Preview: Can Sunderland Smash The Scousers?

Far and away the one we need to keep all our eyes on, be it rolling around or using his abundance of talent.

Well, we should have dusted ourselves down from last weekend by now and be fully focused on this weekend's game against Liverpool. One concern being however that against West Brom, it would seem some of the players had an eye on the Tyne-Wear derby. I only hope this weekend that too many of them don't have an eye on the FA Cup Quarter Final with Everton next week. We must start to take one game at a time.

Anyway, let's get on with the preview where you'll find team news from both sides, betting, music and a bit more. All in all, you really don't need to go anywhere else for a comprehensive buildup...

Sunderland Team News

There's some enforced changes to be made in the Sunderland side following the Tyne-Wear derby. Stephane Sessegnon will miss a few games through suspension after his red card for lashing out at Cheik Tiote, whilst Lee Cattermole will also be sat in the stands having not only been booked, but sent off after the final whistle rather stupidly.

At the back it looks like there'll be one change, which we'll come to in a moment. Simon Mignolet will continue in goal, with Phil Bardsley and Michael Turner in front of him. John O'Shea will play through the pain barrier of a broken hand to partner Turner at the back, but Kieran Richardson is a major doubt for the game having come off against Newcastle last weekend. Wayne Bridge would deputise if Rico can't make it.

In midfield, someone will have to replace Cattermole, and it would seem a straight shootout between David Vaughan and Jack Colback for the spot. It depends how we want to go really. Do we want calm, experience and efficiency in Vaughan, or energy and local pride with Jack Colback? Colback came on at the Sports Direct Arena ahead of Vaughan, so you'd have to imagine he's in pole position. Personally, I'd be leaning towards Vaughan though. David Meyler still sits behind both in the midfield pecking order.

Up front, Nicklas Bendtner had an excellent game against Newcastle, and is sure to to retain his place in the team. Fraizer Campbell will probably come in for Stephane Sessegnon, making it a straight 4-4-2 formation.

Liverpool Team News

Despite a penalties win over Cardiff City to take the Carling Cup back to Anfield, Liverpool have been in relatively patchy form of late, with only one win and three defeats included in their last six Premier League games.

The Reds don't have any major injuy worries ahead of this weekends game, Steven Gerrard missed a large part of the season, but is just about back to full fitness if not his best form, and Daniel Agger could miss the game with a fractured rib, which also kept him out of the recent defeat to Arsenal, and fellow defender Glen Johnson has a chance of making the game having withdrawn from the England squad in the midweek just gone, and also missing the afore mentioned Arsenal defeat. Lucas Leiva is a long term injury, and has no chance of featuring.

We're likely to see changes across the back line given those injuries to Agger and Johnson, and if neither make it we should expect Jamie Carragher and Martin Kelly to deputise. This would be ideal for us, as Carragher could have a nightmare against Fraizer Campbell, and a battle of the relatively inexperienced pair Kelly and McClean could be an interesting tussle.

Liverpool's midfield has tended to pick itself of late, with Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson all regulars, and whilst Steven Gerrard struggles with a knock, he could to be kept out of this one what with it being the start of 3 games in 8 days for Liverpool, including a Merseyside derby on Tuesday. Jay Spearing deputised against Arsenal, and chould do the same this weekend.

In attack, it's likely to be Dirk Kuyt partnering Luis Suarez, with Andy Carroll finding himself ont he bench once again. We'll be hoping the big lummox plays as Turner and O'Shea will be able to deal with him no problem, but the energetic pairing of Kuyt and Suarez could pose problems for defenders like ours, especially as if there's any sniff of contact in the box, the Uruguayan is going to go down.

The key should be to win the midfield battle. This is the case in nearly all games of course, but Liverpool have enjoyed a lot of possession in midfield, and if we can cut them out forcing them into long balls, I'd back our defence to lap those up.

Predicted Lineups

SAFC: Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, O'Shea, Bridge; Larsson, Vaughan, Gardner, McClean; Campbell, Bendtner

Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique; Henderson, Spearing, Adam, Downing; Kuyt, Suarez

Classic Encounter

In December 2002, over 37,000 shuffled in to the Stadium Of Light to see us take on Liverpool, and come away with a 2-1 victory, despite the hinderance of having Howard Wilkinson as manager. Gavin McCann won the ball from Steven Gerrard in midfield, and whilst the Scousers waited for a freekick which was never given, he lobbed the ball over Chris Kirkland and into the back of the net.

McCann could have doubled the lead had he not missed a penalty shortly after the hour mark after Jamie Carragher handled in the area, and we were made to pay even heavier price when Milan Baros equalised for the visitors just ten minutes later, but substitute Michael Proctor would be the toast of the town as he managed to bundle the ball past Kirkland at the second attempt to send the home fans into rapture.

Get Rich Quick

Ok, I haven't done one of these for a while, so maybe it's my turn to bring about some luck to the feature. Or so I'd like to think anyway, anyone that's followed this with a keen eye will know to do the exact opposite of what I recommend. So without further ado, here's my top tips...

  • The Wincast market on BetFred looks decent if you want to follow my suggestion on the Podcast and in this preview. SAFC win, and Fraizer Campbell scores at any time comes in around 15/2, so you don't even need to be right on the score or opening scorer.
  • Half-time/Full-time betting is always a favourite of mine, and the odds on a Draw/Sunderland result there comes in around 13/2.
  • Or if you want to/are foolish enough to back my prediction entirely, which is Campbell and 1-0, then that's a hefty 55/1.

Song For Whoever

The song for whoever. We pick a song which seems appropriate to the situation, or someone involved in the game some how. Maybe it's just something that will get everyone fired up? You'll have to decide for yourself. This week's song selection is actually a parody of the Wu-Tang Clan's classic "Shame On A..." to suit the Luis Suarez situation. Surely even Liverpool fans can see the humour in this awesome track, which is well worth two minutes of your time...

Prediction

Tough one to call, and barring a beachball the other year, we don't have a great record against Liverpool. That said, we're different teams nowadays, they seem to be inconsistent and on the way down, we're on the way up and hopefully they'll have an eye on the forthcoming Merseyside derby. I think it will be a close one, and I'm going for a 1-0 home win, with Fraizer Campbell netting the only goal.

Ha'way The Lads!

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