Sunderland Team News
Steven Fletcher remains Sunderland's major doubt for Saturday afternoon following his withdrawl from procedings last week at half time having sustained an ankle injury, having landed awkwardly whilst contesting for a header. The club are yet, at the time of writing, to receive the results of a scan which was undertaken earlier in the week, however Poyet has already stated that the game will come too soon for the forward. Ultimately, given the Scot's out-of-sorts form of late, this is unlikely to give any reason to lose any sleep.
Emanuele Giaccherini, the much heralded and assumed all conquering protagonist following his arrival in the summer has also been acclaimed in the press during the week by the gaffer, despite not even featuring on the bench last time out. Despite Giaccherini's failure to make an impact you have to feel that there is a good player there somewhere and if Poyet can find a way to make him work in a front three including Borini up top and Johnson on the right then he could be on to a winning formula, especially given Fletcher's absence and the uncertainty surrounding Jozy Altidore and his future.
Norwich City Team News
Norwich are set to welcome back a familiar face into their squad this weekend as Michael Turner makes his long awaited return from injury. Turner has been out of action since New Year's Day, picking up a hamstring injury against Crystal Palace, but his road to recovery is set to end this weekend and he will be a big boost to Chris Hughton's side. It is however unlikely that Turner will break up Sebastien Bassong and Joseph Yobo's partnership at the back just yet.
Another name Sunderland fans will be familiar with, Jonas Gutierrez, is also set to return to the fold having featured in a midweek under-21's game, along with Turner, having been out through injury since the beginning of February.
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Alonso; Cattermole; Larsson, Ki, Johnson, Giaccherini; Borini
Norwich City (4-4-1-1): Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Redmond; Hoolahan; Wolfswinkel
Key Match-up: Fabio Borini Vs Sebastien Bassong & Joesph Yobo
If Gus Poyet toes the party line and opts to field Fabio Borini as the spearhead of his attack as is the desire of many a Sunderland fan then the Italian's movement and guile will be key to getting in and behind Norwich's big, burly central defence.
Out of all Sunderland's striking options Borini is possibly the best selection this week as fielding Jozy Altidore would surely play into the hands of Bassong and Yobo who would be right at home with a physical encounter. However giving them something to think about with Borini buzzing around their heels and we may just be able to force them out of their comfort zone.
Recent Form: LWLDL
Loss: West Ham 2 - 0 Norwich (Collins 84, Diame 90)
Win: Norwich 1 - 0 Spurs (Snodgrass 47)
Loss: Aston Villa 4 - 1 Norwich (Hoolahan 3, Benteke 25, 27, Bacuna 37, Bassong OG 41)
Draw: Norwich 1 - 1 Stoke (Johnson 56, Waters PEN 73)
Loss: Southampton 4 - 2 Norwich (Schneiderlin 5, Lambert 57, Rodriguez 72, Elmander 85, Snodgrass 86, Gallagher 90)
Last Time Around: Sunderland 0-0 Norwich City, 21/12/13
A scrappy, goalless draw at the Stadium of Light back in December condemned Sunderland to remaining at the foot of the table at Christmas, a position which only West Brom have managed to fight back from to avoid the drop in the Premier League era.
The game itself was only memorable for a rare lack of discipline from Wes Brown who earned himself a straight red card for an ugly, reckless and frankly ridiculous challenge on Ricky Van Wolfswinkel in injury time. The dismissal would see Brown serve a three game ban for his stupidity and rumours of players deliberately seeking suspensions over Christmas were perhaps not simply the stuff of rumour and wild conjecture.
It was indeed Brown who perhaps came closest to breaking the deadlock that afternoon with a header which crashed off the post but it was Sunderland's inability to break down Norwich or create any real clear cut chances which would frustrate the most.
The Ref: Phil Dowd
Phil Dowd has overseen three fixtures involving Sunderland this season; the 3-0 away defeat at West Brom, the 3-4 home defeat to Chelsea and most recently the 3-0 away win in the Tyne and Wear derby at St. James' Park.
The refreree from Staffordshire (remember when the referee's county used to be all-important, whatever happened to the importance of that snippet of information?) has been in charge of twenty-seven games so far this term and has dished out one-hundred and twenty one yellow cards but just two red cards.
What They Said
Sunderland boss Poyet has stressed the need for his side to treat each remaining Premier League game as if it were their last. A little dramatic maybe, but needs must when you're in such a mess:
I think this is a crucial game for both sides.
Every game is crucial.
The idea is to take every game as the last one - a cup final, people call it - you need to win this one to stay up.
There are ten teams at the bottom, if every single player gave everything from now to the end of the season, still three team will go down.
So the main thing is to be yourself, play the way you play, accept responsibility and go and give everything. Then, there are no regrets.
The much maligned Canaries boss is looking for a response from his players following last week's 4-2 defeat at Southampton:
We need to be better.
We're at home, and our record at home has certainly been good of late.
We haven't conceded many goals at home and we've got to be positive enough to make sure we can score the goals we need to win.
It's a real opportunity to bounce back and generally with this team the reaction to a bad performance has generally been good.
It's a big game for us, particularly with the season coming to that last eight games. We need to make sure we're picking up the point that we need and that has to start with the next game.
Roker Report Predicts
Who bloody knows? Sunderland are a real mixed bag of late and all the praise and accolades they were afforded for their valiant display at Wembley have now been long forgotten with subsequent disappointing performances and results against Hull in the FA Cup and most recently Crystal Palace last time out.
Wes Brown was quoted during the week on the freedom that the team enjoy away from the now highly pressurised home fixtures. While this does ring some alarm bells given the importance that was placed on said home games it may also provide some confidence in the side taking points on the road.
A win for Norwich could go a long way to moving the Canaries away from the drop zone whilst also holding Sunderland firmly in the mire.
I'm going to stick on the fence and predict a 1-1 draw which helps nobody greatly.