Time to preview our clash with Wigan Athletic, and once again it's been labelled a 'must-win' game. It's quite sad that this is the case so early in the season, a season we entered feeling rather confident, and there shouldn't really be nerves surrounding Wigan at home, but such is the circumstance that there actually is.
Wigan haven't been able to buy a win of late, where as last time out we looked lost wihtout Connor Wickham and Sebastian Larsson. Luckily our sexy Swede is returning this week, but I'm not anticipating anything but another long day at the office...
Sunderland Team News
Ok, so as stated Seb Larsson will return, that's a given, but where he fits into the team is up for grabs. With no other injuries or suspensions that we don't already know about, it looks like the team will be relatively unchanged.
Keiren Westwood will be looking to continue his fine form in goal, whilst sat in front of him looks like being John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Michael Turner and I wouldn't be surprised to see Kieran Richardson return to left-back. Phil Bardsley did little wrong (or right) against Fulham, but Brucey must be, simply must be thinking we've got to return to the systerm which worked so well from Bolton through to Manchester United.
Into midfield where Larsson returns, and whilst there'll be temptation to put him on the left where he started the season, I'd much rather it was a straight swap for Ahmed Elmohamady with Stephane Sessegnon out wide left. There's no reason why Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole won't continue in the middle.
So in my imaginary dream world where Sess is out wide, Seb's returned, that leaves our strike-force, and with Connor Wickham injured and Ji Dong-Won just generally knackered, there's an inkling that Ryan Noble will make his first start alongside Nicklas Bendtner. It's something we've got to do if we want to get back to the system which actually worked, and sure Noble's a bit raw, but if you were ever to hand a young'un a first start, Wigan at home is about as good as it gets. If it's not working after an hour mix it up, but I can't see the harm done.
With that making so much sense, don't expect any of it to happen. No doubt we'll persist with Bardsley at left-back, Richardson left wing and Sess ineffective up front. We're one player down from our most effective starting XI, wholesale changes are there for obviously needed.
Wigan Athletic Team News
Whilst we're not exactly in great form, it's not much brighter for the pie eaters, picking up only 1 point from the last 18 available, and they're certainly a team we should be looking to beat. Mind, we said that about Fulham too.
Not much injury news to report from the Wigan side, only the perma-crock Chris Kirkland is certain to miss out, I don't think anyone's shocked by that. Antolin Alcaraz remains out with suspension, no doubt 'spitting feathers' about that (boom boom)
Wigna have tended to use a 4-3-3 of sorts, so we'll probably see that again in action this weekend. One of the things about Wigan which is hard to predict however is their starting line-up. Whether Roberto Martinez is just keeping things fresh or still trying to find the right combination I don't know, but there does seem to be some chopping and changing.
One of the constants however, and players we'll have to be on guard for is Mohammed Diame. Now he's nothing particularly special, but he does have this knack of scoring belters against us and generally bossing things. So often in fact I'm surprised Steve Bruce hasn't signed him as that's as far as our scouting seems to go.
Another to be 'worried' about is Victor Moses. He's in decent form, and could turn Bardsley inside out if he starts at left back. Another reason why I hope he isn't there.
SAFC: Westwood; O'Shea, Brown, Turner, Bardsley; Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, Richardson; Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Wigan: Al-Habsi; Boyce, Gohouri, Caldwell, Figueroa; Diame, McCarthy, Jones; Gomez, Rodallega, Moses.
We've not met a whole load of times, but there's been some decent matches. One that sticks out immediately is going to to the (then) JJB stadium along with anywhere between 7 and 10,000 SAFC fans mid-week to see us clinch the league title with a 1-0 win. Marcus Stewart got the goal early, and happy days ensued. The crowd were magnificent that day, and here's hoping we're all behind the lads, even if they are a load of rubbish again this weekend.
Get Rich Quick
Lose money fast with my 'expert' betting tips based on nothing but whims and fancies! Hello fellow punter, here's my thoughts and suggestions on how you can lose a few bob this weekend. Following a few 'big' bets which haven't come off, I'm going for something all together more realistic... Nicklas Bendtner to score twice (at least) against Wigan comes in at a handy 7/1, so I'm going to have some of that. It's now up to you to pick any other player and actually win.
Song For Whoever
This weeks song suggestion goes out to everyone and contains two messages. One from the fans towards Bruce and whatever tactical decisions he feels he might make, in the title "Get The Balance Right" by Depeche Mode...
And of course there's a secondary thing for all of us here in the lyrics... "Prepare yourself for the fall, it's almost predictable"... This might be our most fitting selection yet, and to be fair could have been used on multiple occasions, however I'm not particularly a big Depeche Mode fan.
Well as I said on the Podcast and I'm sticking with here, it's 3-2 to us. Why? I think we'll win, but it won't be easy. I also think there'll be goals. I hope it's a much more comprehensive victory, but I'll take anything to be honest.
Ha'way the lads!