The busy Festive football season has begun and the games come thick and fast from here on into the New Year. Whilst a strain on the players, to coin a Football Manager phrase, the momentum these runs of games can generate is fantastic. Tomorrow Sunderland face another test in our Nation’s capital in the shape of newly promoted Queens Park Rangers who currently sit two points better off than O’Neill’s SAFC.
What better way to gear up for the game than with the usual goodies that make up a Roker Report Match Preview! Team news, likely lineups, classic encounters, betting tips, a song for the occasion and a scoreline prediction, all compiled into one convenient package for your perusal. We’re too good to you lot, we really are!
Sunderland Team News:
O’Neill would have been panicking having seen his star man Connor Wickham receive treatment to his knee following an awkward fall caused by an innocuous enough challenge from Spurs’ fullback Kyle Walker on
Sunday afternoon. Upon first viewing the look on Connor’s face was troubling for all concerned as the youngster has only just returned to the fold following a five week lay-off with a knee ligament injury. Wickham was replaced at the interval as a precaution and he is expected to shake off the knock in time for tomorrow’s game.
That aside O’Neill has no fresh injuries to contend with and I would imagine he would be fairly pleased with the effort and endeavour his side showed at White Hart Lane in a game where Spurs’ superior quality in the final third was enough to seal a narrow victory for the high-flying side.
Keiren Westwood was again dependable as the current holder of the number one jersey and Sunderland’s back line looked relatively comfortable for the majority of the game, with a wayward pass by Wes Brown gifting Spurs an opportunity they dutifully took and that was enough to earn them the three points. That said I can see no reason why O’Neill would look to unnecessarily break up that unit.
The midfield four worked tirelessly with Vaughan impressing in particular with honourable mentions to his colleagues, Larsson, Colback and Richardson who all turned in decent performances and can be confident of retaining their starting spots.
The forward line, as we all know, is currently where Sunderland will currently always fall short. We simply do not have a member of our squad that can do the business in the box and O’Neill is more than aware of this
issue. Wickham will always put himself about and cause problems but we are crying out for someone to work with him. Sessegnon is lively and has the ability to play some lovely stuff but simply isn’t the answer.
That said expect the pair to make the teamsheet again, with Bendtner likely to have to make do with a seat on the bench.
One man who is certainly making a name for himself is James McClean who put in another eye-catching performance coming off the bench and looking lively. The Irishman is certainly building up some evidence in
his favour to support a claim for a starting spot but I would imagine patience is key for the lad but if he keeps playing as he has been he won’t be waiting long for the nod.
QPR Team News:
Neil Warnock’s side were unable to upset the apple cart on Sunday lunchtime as Manchester United simply brushed them aside, the scoreline could easily have been six or seven rather than the two goals they managed to put past a very busy Radek Cerny.
QPR go into Wednesday's game without a win in their last four games and on the back of two straight defeats, just a few weeks ago Sunderland would be the ideal opposition for a club desperate for a win but we don't appear to be such a soft touch these days.
Ex-Sunderland central defender Anton Ferdinand is still a major doubt for Warnock having missed the weekend with a hamstring injury. However Rangers were boosted by the timely return of Matthew Connolly who is expected to again cover for the injured Ferdinand. Fitz Hall has also made a return to training this week and stands a good chance of making the squad.
The main talking point going in to Wednesday's game surrounds Rangers' forward line. Warnock's side have only managed to find the back of the net fifteen times so far this term, the lowest tally in the league and having been disappointed in the performance of both Heidar Helguson and Shaun Wright-Phillips on Sunday many expect a shakeup in the QPR camp by Warnock with Adel Taarabt and DJ Campbell taking their place.
SAFC: Westwood, O'Shea, Bramble, Brown, Bardsley, Larsson, Vaughan, Colback, Richardson, Sessegnon, Wickham
QPR: Cerny, Young, Gabbidon, Connolly, Traore, Mackie, Barton, Faurlin, Taarabt, Bothroyd, Campbell
In January of 1999 QPR and SAFC played out a 2-2 draw at Loftus Road, a game that is memorable to Sunderland fans for a superb volley from Kevin Philips to mark his return from a lengthy lay-off, a last minute equaliser from Niall Quinn to share the spoils and a red card for Bally following a horror tackle in the centre circle at the end of the first half.
Get Rich Quick:
Both Sunderland and QPR's last five games have seen the respective sides pick up just four points and both managers will see this as an ideal game to put some much needed points on the board. This should be an open game which could lead to one thing; goals. QPR's much maligned defensive record being lending more creedence to this prediction, however can Sunderland carve out chances in open play or will we continue to rely upon Sebastian Larsson's magic right boot?
- Odds of around 16/1 for the first goal of the game to come from a freekick are available and with Larsson, Taarabt and Barton set to start this might not be a bad shout.
- Its about time Wesley managed to get on the end of one of Larsson's corners, it has to happen sooner or later! Why not take Brown to score first and Sunderland to win which is available for around 70/1.
Song For Whoever:
We usually try to work in some kind of tenuous link between the game and a song... but sod it, it's Christmas! This one is dedicated to our very own Mr. Graham!
I think O'Neill and the lads will take a lot of positives from Sunday's narrow defeat and will be eager to kick on. QPR will be an interesting test for Martin but I suspect we will offer a little more going forward this time out and if we can get the ball into the box as often as we did against Blackburn the goals will come. I'm going for an optimistic early Christmas present with a 2-1 win for Sunderland.