Preview: Crucial Clash At Craven Cottage

Laurence Griffiths

Gus Poyet's team face Fulham this weekend, looking to grab a potentially season defining three points.

Sunderland Team News

Steven Fletcher picked up a knock in Sunderland's midweek victory over Manchester United and could miss the trip to Fulham. Even if he is fit to play, Poyet may stick with his policy of rotation when it comes to his forwards and choose to start Altidore ahead of him.

Altidore was impressive as a substitute in the tie, but it was Adam Johnson who really excelled after coming off the bench and he will feel he has done enough to earn a start on the weekend. If he does start, it will likely be in the place of Giaccherini.

The rest of the side pretty much picks itself, barring a toss up between Colback and Larsson for the third midfield berth. Long term absentees Carlos Cuellar and Keiren Westwood will not be missed, unless Vito Mannone picks up an injury or gets himself sent off.

Fulham Team News

Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is an injury doubt for Fulham, while defender and club stalwart Brede Hangeland looks set to miss out.

Meulensteen has rotated the team heavily since taking charge and has the talents of American forward Clint Dempsey to call upon, after his return to the club on loan from MLS club Seattle Sounders. Sunderland could also find themselves up against former players Richardson and Bent.

Predicted Line-Ups:

Sunderland vs Fulham - Football tactics and formations

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise; Parker, Sidwell; Duff, Taarabt, Demspey; Bent

Sunderland: Mannone; Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Alonso; Cattermole; Larsson, Ki; Johnson, Altidore, Borini

Key Match-Up: Adam Johnson Vs John Arne Riise

If Johnson does start and finds himself up against Riise, there is every chance he can be Sunderland's match winner. Tuesday's performance was hugely encouraging and Sunderland must look to isolate Fulham's full back by getting the ball to Johnson in advanced areas as often as possible.

Recent Form: LWLWD

Loss: Fulham 2-4 Man City (Richardson, Kompany (og); Toure, Kompany, Navas, Milner)

Win: Norwich 1-2 Fulham (Hooper; Kasami, Parker)

Loss: Hull 6-0 Fulham (Elmohamady, Koren (2), Boyd, Huddlestone, Fryatt)

Win: Fulham 2-1 West Ham (Sidwell, Berbatov; Diame)

Draw: Norwich 1-1 Fulham (Snodgrass; Bent)

Last Time Around: Fulham 1-3 Sunderland, 18/11/2012

The last time Sunderland travelled to Craven Cottage, Martin O'Neill was still manager. It feels like a lifetime ago. Fulham dominated the first half and even after Brede Hangeland was sent off Sunderland failed to cause many problems.

In the second half, in form Steven Fletcher gave an improved Sunderland the lead. However, Mladen Petric soon levelled things and despite being down to ten men, Fulham were competing well. A rare Carlos Cuellar goal put Sunderland back in front before a special strike from Sessegnon sealed a second win of the season.

What They're Saying

Gus Poyet

We are trying to look at a quantity of points, around 40, and if you think of the position we are in, we need to win eight games and get a few more points. But it is always important to get those wins as soon as possible so you put yourself in the mix and you put yourself ahead of someone.

We need that to happen soon because we are so close. We didn't have this opportunity two or three weeks ago, but now we have one and we have to put it right ourselves.

Elsad Zverotic (Fulham Defender)

They [Sunderland] are at the bottom right now, but they've shown that they're a very capable side on their day. They beat Manchester United 2-1 in the League Cup this week, and that would have given them a lot of confidence.

Gus Poyet has come in as Head Coach, and he's having a good effect. He has some good players in his side, and we'll have to be very aware of that when they come to Craven Cottage.

Roker Report Predicts

Sunderland have failed to impress in home games against fellow strugglers Aston Villa and Norwich City in recent weeks, while dominant performances away at Villa and West Ham before that could not be converted into three points. Confidence should be high after the midweek victory over Manchester United, but this is Sunderland, a team that followed up an excellent victory at Everton with a dire opening 25 minutes at Cardiff City.

Although Fulham were destroyed by Hull City a couple of games ago, their other recent results will leave them feeling they can win on Saturday. A score draw seems to be on the cards; 2-2.

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