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Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers (A) Preview

Time to preview the game properly, and what a game we have in prospect... Oh who am I kidding, it's gonna be another crushing defeat isn't it? Actually, are they even crushing any more? Who knows, ask me at 6pm on Saturday night.

Bolton 8th, up where we used to be once upon a time ago, us languishing in 14th as we head into the game, and the barren run combined with injuries does not make for pretty reading from our side of the fence.

Either way, lets get right into the action, and bow our heads in prayer that the football Gods smile on us and take pity allowing us some joy before the season comes to a close...

SAFC Team News

Everyone expected a similar 4-6-0/4-5-1 that finished the game against Wigan for the previous game against Fulham. It didn't materialise as we went 4-4-2, and completely failed. I think we'll see a return to the 4-5-1 against Bolton Wanderers mind you.

Simon Mignolet will continue in goal at the only fit keeper not named Trevor Carson. Whilst sitting in front of him will be a back four of Ahmed Elmohamady, Nedum Onuoha and Phil Bardsley, plus either Michael Turner or John Mensah. Turner has picked up a knock in training this week, and could miss out, where as Mensah is returning form injury and may well not be ready. Or course, the sensible thing to do would be to chuck Anton Ferdinand in there, but you know what Bruce is like, and it would appear someone is going to have to play through the pain.

Into midfield/attack, and as stated, I think we will return to 4-5-1 at the weekend, however Lee Cattermole is the latest injury victim, and looks like missing out this game along with the rest of the season, so we can see Bolo Zenden sitting alongside the continually impressive Jack Colback, whilst the other places seem completely up for grabs. Catts has a minor knock, but managed to play the full game against Fulham, and as captain, I'd expect him to man-up and play through this one.

Jordan Henderson would normally play on the right hand side here, but he also has a knock, and was forced from action early against Fulham. At this stage in the season there's absolutely no point in risking him when there's pretty much nothing at stake, and our hopes of finishing in the top ten are deader than Osama Bin Laden (too soon?) To replace Henderson if need be, I'd possibly push Elmohamady up, and bring Mensah into defence shifting Onuoha back to right-back. However, this is Steve Bruce, and no doubt Henderson will be forced to play 25 minutes before hobbling off injured.

Sulley Muntari looks almost certain to be axed from the matchday squad after being bombed out of the club, and rightly so. I had high hopes for him, but it just hasn't happened for him.

So that leaves a probable attacking force (snicker) of Steed Malbranque, Henderson/Elmohamady and A.N.Other. Could be Zenden, could be a youngster like Billy Knott or Craig Lynch whom Bruce has said "could play a part" over the coming weeks. I hope he opts for youth in this case. Nothing against Zenden etc, but lets see what these lads are made of.

Stephane Sessegnon will forge a lone path up front, supported from the bench by Ryan Noble, who bagged two goals for the reserves midweek in a 5-3 win over Preston North End.

Bruce's Probable Team:
Mignolet; Onuoha, Ferdinand, Mensah, Bardsley; Zenden, Colback, Henderson, Malbranque, Elmohamady; Sessegnon

My Team:
Mignolet; Elmohamady, Mensah, Onuoha, Bardsley; Zenden, Colback, Malbranque, Knott; Sessegnon, Noble

From the Bolton Wanderers side...

Bolton have a new found reputation for playing attractive football, and on the few occasions I've seen them this season they've done just that.

Everyone knows who Bolton's good players are and who the 'ones to watch' are like Daniel Sturridge and Kevin Davies, so we shan't dwell on that.

Bolton are without the former Sunderland man Stuart Holden, and there's some controversy in goal, as last week Jussi Jaaskelainen was dropped in favour of youngster Adam Bogdan. That's where I think we can get at Bolton. With an inexperienced keeper, and Bolton conceding 7 of their 20 home goals by way of set-piece, I'm hoping that someone like Michael Turner or Nedum Onuoha can pop up and steal one when we forage a rare attack.

Aside from that, I see from Bolton Wanderers a better and stronger team all over the pitch than the one we're gonna chuck out there on Saturday, and I see it being a long afternoon.


I hope more than anything we get something, I really really do but I've looked from every possible angle and can't seem to work out where the win is gonna come from. Luckily I don't have to do anything more than simply will the team on, which I will be doing, Steve Bruce has to sort that out, and by jingo I hope he does.

As said though, I can see it being along afternoon for us, and an even longer trip back to the North East. If we escape with something less than a cricket score, and come away with some dignity, I'll be ok. If we win, I'll be frigging ecstatic.

My prediction? 1-0 to Bolton. Unfortunately.

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