Preview: Cup Offers Perfect Chance For Opening Victory

Chris Brunskill

Having garnered just a point from their opening two Premier Leagues, tonight offers Paolo Di Canio's men a welcome opportunity to get the ball rolling on the 2013/14 season, as League One side MK Dons head to Wearside for a Capital One Cup tie.

Sunderland Team News

Paolo Di Canio has ruled out making five or six changes from the side that drew at Southampton on Saturday. Jack Colback looked likely to miss out having suffered a knock at St Mary's, but the makeshift left-back has this morning been declared fit to play. Valentin Roberge and Cabral, who were dropped at the weekend, will probably feature.

One man who will definitely start is Vito Mannone, as Di Canio looks to keep competition between him and Keiren Westwood fierce. Other debutants may include David Moberg Karlsson, El-Hadji Ba and Charis Mavrias. Di Canio, however, has warned against the introduction of players for the sake of it, outlining that progress to the third round overrides any desire to give the new boys game time. A strong line-up is expected.

Wes Brown is unlikely to feature, though long-term absentee Steven Fletcher may appear from the bench.

MK Dons Team News

Much like their victory in the first round over Northampton Town, manager Karl Robinson is expected to give youth a chance in tonight's visit to the Stadium of Light.

22-year-old Ian McLoughlin, who played when the two sides met in this competition last year, will uproot David Martin in goal. Tom Flanagan, George Baldock, Brendan Galloway and Dele Alli are all expected to feature. Stephen Gleeson will look to move the team forward from midfield, while Patrick Bamford - on loan from Chelsea - will be looking to add to the two goals he has already notched this term.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mannone; Celustka, Cuellar, Roberge, Colback; Johnson, Larsson, Cabral, Mavrias; Sessegnon, Altidore

MK Dons: McLoughlin; Otsemobor, Flanagan, Hodson, Williams; Gleeson, Reeves, Alli, Banton; Bamford, Baldock

Key Matchup: Vito Mannone vs MK Dons Forward Line

That may seem a vague matchup, but it is hard not to feel that a good performance for Mannone this evening will keep him hot on the heels of Keiren Westwood; conversely, a poor performance could see him permanently relegated to the substitutes bench.

Mannone looked solid in pre-season but has since found himself usurped by Westwood. The Italian will be looking to keep a clean sheet this evening and, in the process, secure safe passage into the third round of the competition.

Recent Form

24/08/13, League One: MK Dons 2-2 Bristol City (Bamford 52, Carruthers 69; Baldock 36, 66)
17/08/13, League One: Preston North End 2-2 MK Dons (Kay (OG) 10, Garner 35; Banton 31, Williams (pen) 63)
10/08/13, League One: MK Dons 1-0 Crewe Alexandra (Bamford 20)
06/08/13, League Cup Round One: Northampton Town 1-2 MK Dons (O'Donovan 77; Reeves 13, 90+5)
03/08/13: League One: Shrewsbury Town 0-0 MK Dons

Last Time Around: MK Dons 0-2 Sunderland, 25/09/2012

Oddly, these two sides met in the same competition just a year ago, with the men from Milton Keynes hosting a third round tie. That was the only tie between us too, which is why we're not bothering with the non-existent home tie as that has never happened up until now.

Despite the reckless sending off of skipper Lee Cattermole in the first half, the visitors ran out fairly comfortable winners, progressing to a fourth round tussle with local rivals Middlesbrough. Cattermole's straight red for a ludicrous lunge on Adam Chicksen looked to have put the wheels in motion for a cup upset, and the hosts threatened Keiren Westwood's goal either side of the break.

Fears were allayed nine minutes into the second half though, as Craig Gardner rifled home a sumptuous free kick; James McClean's fine solo goal wrapped up the victory eight minutes from full-time. It was an efficient, profesisonal performance in a Sunderland season otherwise largely devoid of them.

The Ref: David Coote

Only a league referee for three years, Coote has not refereed at higher level than the Championship thus far, and this evening represents his first interaction with Sunderland.

As for the visitors, the Nottinghamshire-based official has overseen the Dons three times in his career - with each game ending in a draw. With a result required this evening, that trend is soon to end.

This season, Coote has refereed three games, handing out ten yellow cards and two penalties.

What The Managers Said

Paolo Di Canio

[MK Dons] are good, they are good. I know Karl [Robinson], I know the way they play - they are a similar team to last year.

I have told my players, 'Remember this team'. They now have some youngsters, but it's a traditional club where you can find ex-Premier League and Championship footballers with quality and pedigree and in one game they can cause problems to any side in the Premier.

We know we are going to have difficulty because they have physical presence, they are strong, they have good athletes and a good system.

If you want to build a winning mentality, [the cup] goes hand in hand with the league. It's very, very important.

We have to take every competition seriously with maximum effort and determination - otherwise we are never going to change the mentality.

Karl Robinson

We're looking forward to it. The young players are excited; the old players want to be here and be involved in [the game] as well.

[The youngsters] all have ambitions of one day playing at the highest level of English football. It's an opportunity for these young players to learn the trade - we're all really looking forward to go to the Stadium of Light.

It will be a unique opportunity for many players to see what the real world of football is like.

Roker Report Predicts

A rather uninspiring start to the league campaign has seen this game take on added importance for Di Canio and Sunderland. With the club never going to challenge for Premier League honours, the cups offer a more tangible prospect of success - now, it also offers a chance to get the ball rolling.

Even allowing for the Wearsiders' penchant for letting themselves down in cup competitions against lower league opposition, it is hard not to see a home victory this evening.

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