Preview: Sunderland Looking For End Of Season Cheer Against United

"Stay On Your Feet!"

Time to do this for the final time this season, as we preview this weekend's game with Manchester United, in what promises to be a great finale to the season, and even better if we can get a result against the current reigning champions to finish on a high note after a few down weeks.

There's still plenty to play for for both teams too, as we look to climb a little further up the table while the visitors look to claim a highly unlikely title victory at the expense of their 'noisy neighbours'... it's certainly not going to be a typical end of season game where both teams offer little of note, not wanting to get injured before they go off on their holidays.

Anyway, less waffle, more preview. Let's get down to the action with our team news, some predicted lineups, a classic encounter, some betting and maybe even some tuneage to get you in the mood. Join us...

Sunderland Team News

There's been surprises the last few weeks in our team selections, and I've a sneaking suspicion that there'll be more this weekend.

Simon Mignolet returned in goal against Fulham after Craig Gordon has his chance against Bolton Wanderers. I can't see the sense in playing Kieren Westwood so I imagine Mignolet will keep the shirt.

We seem to be favouring Phil Bardsley at left-back in recent weeks, so that should continue this weekend, with fellow former Manchester United man, John O'Shea manning the other flank. In the middle, Michael Turner should continue alongside Matt Kilgallon, but don't rule out a surprise start for Titus Bramble as the squad is used to the max at the moment.

In midfield, everyone barring Lee Cattermole did reasonably well against Fulham, and all four should start based on form or simply being captain. James McClean on the left, Cattermole and Jack Colback in the middle with Craig Gardner stuck out wide. Ahmed Elmohamady will have been disappointed not to get too much action recently, but them's the breaks. Sorry Elmo.

In attack, you'd have to imagine that Ji Dong-Won drops back to the bench. He was fine against Fulham, showed some nice touches, but we'll need more of a physical presence against Ferdinand and Smalling. Nicklas Bendtner should start, and failing that then Fraizer Campbell will step up. Connor Wickham? It would be a shock, but we've had shocks in recent weeks...

Manchester United Team News

The reigning champions (for another 90 minutes at least) come to Wearside with few injury problems and no new suspensions either. With them needing a minor miracle to hold on to the title, look for them to go all out for the win, and select a very attacking lineup to give them at least a fighting chance.

Maligned earlier in the season, but in good form now, David De Gea will start in goal, likely behind a back four of Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling and Patrice Evra.

In midfield, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young should all start for the Reds, as should Paul Scholes in what might be his last ever game for the club, again. In attack, Young will drift in and around the front two, while Valencia seems to find Wayne Rooney with almost every cross.

Partnering Rooney in attack should be Javier Hernandez, as was the case last week, after it was announced the Mexican won't represent his country this summer at the Olympics. However, there may also be temptation to throw in Dimitar Berbatov for a farewell performance. Danny Welbeck is likely to be given more time to recover from a mild niggle.

Predicted Lineups

SAFC: Mignolet; O'Shea, Turner, Bramble, Bardsley; Gardner, Cattermole, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Bendtner.

MUFC: De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Young; Rooney, Hernandez

Classic Encounter

This week's classic encounter is a game well remembered by SAFC fans from the 1996/97 season and a 2-1 win at home thanks to goals from Mickey Gray and John Mullin. Our first season in the Premier League, and not the happiest of ones was brought to life with this incredible win.

Get Rich Quick

We bring you our world famous betting tips for the final time this season. Famous because they're usually spectacularly wrong. Nevertheless, we're hopeful of putting a new spin on this next season, and maybe a proper actual gambler will help us out. Until then though, you're stuck with us, so here's our selections for this week...

  • We'll start with one for the pessimists among us. Fancy United to somehow overturn the lead at the top of the league and batter us? You can get odds on them beating us 8-0. Yes, that's eight goals to nil, at 350/1 on Bet365.
  • On a much more positive note, and you fancy us to spoil any potential party and get a victory over them, the odds on a 1-0 win for us look pretty decent at a whopping 20/1. Very good for a home side to win under any circumstances.
  • Finally, for a player. How about James McClean, buoyed by his recent call up to the Irish national squad for the European Championships, to grab the opening goal. You can find odds on that available around 18/1.

Song For Whoever

This is the section where we select a tune relevant to the game, the situation or whatever the hell we want really. This week, with it being the end of the season and thus there's a sadness about this roller coaster coming to and end, we picked a suitably sad song about endings. It's The Doors with The End...

Prediction

I don't think we'll win. Most weeks in these previews I'm much more optimistic than I ought to be, but this week I'm not seeing anything other than a Manchester United victory. I don't for one second think that despite our bad form they can hit us for nine or more goals they need to take the title, I think as long as we assert ourselves, we shouldn't disgrace ourselves, so I'm looking at a 3-2 defeat, McClean and Sessegnon among the goals for us in an exciting encounter. Not much to cheer about, but at least some signs of fight should have fans on their feet.

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