Friday can only mean it's time for some red-hot preview action, and here we are to provide it. You've already seen Roker Riches, and quite possibly you've heard the Podcast where we discussed the game, but of course we love to write too, and here's our essential preview to Sunderland against West Bromwich Albion.
Both teams have a lot to play for, we need to arrest this horrible slump we're in, and West Brom need every point they can get. We're not scoring, they can't keep clean sheets. Something's got to give in what is a very interesting match-up...
SAFC Team News
This week the team could be more difficult than usual to predict with Steve Bruce promising to 'shake things up' earlier in the week. Whether he meant on the pitch or on the training ground, we don't know. I'd assume it's going to be on the pitch, as that's where it matters though.
Brucey can't make changes in goal, despite conceding five last weekend, Simon Mignolet is the only fit keeper and will continue to keep Craig Gordon on the bench.
The defence draws up a few situations, which makes things somewhat unpredictable. Nedum Onuoha will return to the team and take the spot of Anton Ferdinand at right back. It's also likely that Michael Turner & John Mensah will continue in the middle, but we're unsure about left-back. Phil Bardsley was fresh back from injury, and withdrawn early against Manchester City. Injured? Or just playing crap? A little from Column A, a little from Column B for me, but he should in theory continue at left-back this weekend against WBA.
The wildcard in the defence is the return of Kieran Richardson. If Bruce really wants to 'shake things up' then he could do worse than restoring Kieran to the left back position he started the season in. Not to discredit Bardsley, but it would give us an extra attacking dimension from the left hand side, as would be my preference.
In midfield, I'm almost certain we'll be all out for the win, which means 4-4-2 in Bruce's eyes. There's some reluctance from either the players, or Bruce to use the 4-5-1 correctly, and in a positive manner, so it looks like a return to 4-4-2.
Who will make up the four? Despite declaring he won't be fully fit until next season Lee Cattermole is a certainty to start in the middle as captain, alongside Sulley Muntari. Which wouldn't be my choice at all, and I do hope I'm wrong and Muntari gets a more advanced role, with someone like Bolo Zenden sitting alongside Cattermole.
On the wings, again keeping in mind Brucey's shake up, It looks as though Kieran Richardson would take the left wing role if Bardsley continues at left back, but the right wing role is well and truly up for grabs. Stephane Sessegnon holds the position at the moment, but having been in a losing team every time he starts, Bruce may try and hope Lady Luck is on his side and drop him to the bench. Ahmed Elmohamady did alright on that side against City, and holds his position well on the right to give us an outlet. Of coursre there is also Jordan Henderson who started in that position against City, did alright for 10 minutes or so before Bruce changed the system and Henderson moved back inside with little effect. I think Sessegnon will get the start however. Steed Malbranque has an outside chance of playing on either wing, but will more than likely be on the bench.
Up front it's going to be Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck as we gun for goals against West Brom's leaky defence. Fingers crossed too we might see Fraizer Campbell on the bench too.
Bruce's Probable Team:
Mignolet; Onuoha, Mensah, Turner, Bardsley; Sessegnon, Muntari, Cattermole, Richardson; Welbeck, Gyan
Mignolet; Onuoha, Mensah, Turner, Richardson; Zenden, Cattermole, Muntari, Henderson, Sessegnon; Gyan
From the West Brom side
Two players we'll have to keep under wraps are striker Peter Odemwingie and midfielder Chris Brunt.
With Odemwingie - we'll be fine if we cut off the supply to him, and the majority of that comes though Brunt. Odemwingie's movement will cause problems against Turner & Mensah, neither of whom are blessed with speed, but I still fancy their chances.
Brunt will need to be watched closely too of course as he floats around the left hand side of the field. Nedum Onuoha and A.N.Other will have to be on guard for him cutting inside and it's crucial that we don't give away too many free-kicks close to the area, as Brunt has a demon left-foot.
Or key to victory will be playing the ball through the middle, and supporting Asamoah Gyan. Gyan will hustle and harry West Brom's defence, and we need to start gambling that he's going to do something when we lump it up to him, as opposed to waiting.
WBA's centre back pairing of Jonas Olsson & Abdoulaye Meite are slow, and we need to get around them. I think I may have made the point before too, but Scott Carson is an accident waiting ot happen too, which we need to exploit. Shots from distance, a bit of pressure from corners etc, how he's played for England I'll never know, but he's for me, the weakest link in their team.
I've said it all week, and I'm sticking by it. 2-0 to us, and I fancy Gyan to get at least one of them, and perhaps Stephane Sessegnon the other. It's about time he showed something.
Alot of players need to step up their game, and of course not everyone will, but with WBA determined to take something from the game, I don't anticipate this game will be a classic, but we should come away with all three points and go someway to restoring confidence in the fans that all is not lost.
Lets hope the players play their game, and don't get nervous or worried by the previous seven games hanging over their heads.
Ha'way the lads.
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