Preview: Sunderland Search For Safety Against Saints

Tom Dulat

While Wigan's defeat at home to Swansea was a huge boost for Sunderland's survival chances, the Black Cats can take matters into their own hands this weekend in a tough game against fellow strugglers Southampton.

Sunderland Team News

Obviously Stephane Sessegnon will miss out through suspension and now we can add Craig Gardner to the list for his stupid sending off against Stoke City on Monday night, which leaves Sunderland without their three top scorers when you factor in the long-term injury to Steven Fletcher too.

So yet another re-jig will be required for Paolo Di Canio.

The back four which sit in front of Simon Mignolet will likely include Danny Rose at left-back plus a central defensive pairing of Monday's goalscorer John O'Shea and Carlos Cuellar who managed to recoup a little of his reputation against Stoke City. At right-back though there's options, and with Jack Colback proving to be useful there I wouldn't bet against him getting the nod over Phil Bardsley for a second week running.

The midfield should still be anchored by Alfred N'Diaye with Seb Larsson alongside him. James McClean has been unproductive but with options sparse he should get the nod on the left. Adam Johnson proved much better on Monday when he reverted to the right wing, and he's set to continue there as there's some good news for once in the striking department.

Connor Wickham is set to return from injury this weekend and with points on the board needed he simply must start alongside Danny Graham in attack. If the former Ipswich Town man is on the bench then look for Johnson to be back in a forward position, with Colback advanced into midfield and Bardsley in at full-back.

Southampton Team News

The Saints need the points just as much as we do and have shown improvement under the leadership of Mauricio Pochettino.

Arthur "The Angriest Man In The Whole Damn Town" Boruc should continue to keep Kelvin Davis out the side, and in front of him will be the middling defenders of Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld. I call them middling as they do have two very exciting and talented full-backs who'll start in the shape of Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw.

Pochettino seems to favour a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 hybrid so the holding midfielders should be Jack Cork and Steven Davis as it was last week, with the talented Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Guly Do Prado behind Rickie Lambert Celebrate in attack.

The Argentinian manager has injury concerns over Morgan Scheiderlin and Richard Chaplow, while Gaston Ramirez has been in and out the side, but will miss this one through suspension along with Daniel Fox.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Colback, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, N'Diaye, McClean; Wickham, Graham

Southampton: Boruc; Clyne, Hooiveld, Fonte, Shaw; Cork, Davis; Lallana, Guly, Rodriguez; Lambert

Key Matchup: Adam Johnson Vs Luke Shaw

I really like Luke Shaw and think he will go on to have a tremendous career. However he has only recently returned from a long-term lay-off and might have a tough task keeping at bay a resurgent Adam Johnson.

Johnson needs to step up to the plate and replicate the kind of form which dragged us kicking and screaming back into the game against Stoke on Monday. If he can do so, and consistently get the better of an attack minded and inexperienced Shaw, he could be the man to change things around in our favour.

Recent Form: WDDLL

Win: Reading 0-2 Southampton (Rodriguez 34, Lallana 72)

Draw: Southampton 1-1 West Ham (Ramirez 59, Carroll 66)

Draw: Swansea 0-0 Southampton

Loss: Southampton 0-3 West Brom (Fortune 6, Lukaku 67, Long 77)

Loss: Tottenham 1-0 Southampton (Bale 86)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-1 Southampton, 11/11/07

Ross Wallace curled in a lovely freekick to give Roy Keane's side the lead agains Southampton as we went on to later that season secure promotion but a then teenage Gareth Bale popped up in the 90th minute to fire a deflected effort off Steve Caldwell and into the back of the net.

We'd go on to get sweet revenge that season with an unforgettable game at St Mary's which secured promotion.

The Ref: Mike Dean

We all know who Mike Dean is, so here's a quick re-cap of his season so far. Thus far he's only overseen one Sunderland match, our 4-2 defeat at home to West Brom. He's taken charge of a fair few Southampton games though and they've yet to win when he's been in charge, including a 5-1 mauling at the hands of Chelsea.

Dean is quick with the cards though and has dished out 95 yellows and 5 reds in his 25 Premier League games so far this season, awarding 4 penalties.

What The Managers Said

Paolo Di Canio:

This game at home against Southampton will be crucial for our destiny.

We have to give everything to win this game. We are in a good position because we are at home.

Mauricio Pochettino:

We just have to get points from the next two games.

We tried with everything we had and we weren't able to do it but competing the way we did and to perform the way we performed I don't think we will be in that battle or have problems.

Roker Report Predicts

Despite the men we have missing for this one we've proven that under adversity we can triumph from time to time. With a vociferous home crowd adding an extra man to this incredibly crucial game, I think we have enough to get over the line. Southampton are no great shakes, and a one or two nil victory should be about right.

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