Following last week's debacle at the Stadium Of Light, Sunderland now have either an incredibly tough task to overcome Brighton & Hove Albion tonight, or a great opportunity to put things right.
For me, the answer lies somewhere in between. I wasn't particularly relishing the game before the weekend, and I am even less so now as Brighton & Hove Albion are a very handy looking team. All things considered though, a win against a good team will go someway to putting things right.
Steve Bruce might have talked plenty about wanting a good cup run, but that's yet to be reflected in team selection or performance. Maybe this is the year...
Sunderland Team News
Well we're expecting changes to be made. Several in fact, and this game should serve as the first test of our new found, or perhaps just alleged, squad strength.
And now to try and second guess Steve Bruce, which is often difficult to do. Having publicly questioned Simon Mignolet's decision making for the goal at the weekend, it would seem likely Kieren Westwood will make a debut in goal.
Across the defence, I think two will stay from the weekends defeat. Those two being Kieran Richardson as he gets another game to grow accustomed to the left-back position, whilst I also think Anton Ferdinand will be kept in. It would be wise to rest Wes Brown given he could break down at any moment, and Titus Bramble should take his slot in the middle of defence. At right-back, Phil Bardsley is suspended, so Ahmed Elmohamady looks likely to fill in. The game comes too soon for John O'Shea to make a debut, whilst Louis Laing might get a run as a late substitute.
In midfield it's extremely likely that Craig Gardner & David Vaughan could be called in at the expense of the shifted Elmohamady and Jack Colback who's young legs could do with a rest. Lee Cattermole should start as captain, partnered by the aforementioned Vaughan. Craig Gardner could then start wide right and cut inside when required with Sebastian Larsson continuing on the left. Should Bruce wish to make more changes, then there's every chance Jordan Cook could get a run wide of midfield.
Up front, I'd expect Stephane Sessegnon to be withdrawn from the starting team, with Ji Dong-Won filling the hole between midfield and attack. A big decision remains over whether to start Asamoah Gyan, who has looked rubbish in the first two games, and could either be removed in favour of Connor Wickham, or given the change to get a goal and get some confidence. I'd suspect the latter.
Brighton & Hove Albion Team News
I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about Brighton & Hove Albion, other than the occasional bits and bobs I've read around the place. That being that they're a good attacking side under the tutelage of Gus Poyet, and that's been backed up as they came up from League One, and have started brightly in The Championship.
The hosts could be without strikers Will Hoskins & Will Buckley, who are both described as "touch and go" by the boss. They'll also be without recent signing Ryan Harley who will be arriving from Swansea, subject to international clearance. No, seriously.
They do however have several other good players, and we expect the Albion to be a tough test. Craig Mackail-Smith is a top striker at Championship level, and could give problems to whoever starts in defence with is mobility. Alan Navarro is also a handy midfielder, whilst I'm intrigued by Roland Bergkamp, son of the legendary Dennis.
Westwood; Elmohamady, Bramble, Ferdinand, Richardson; Gardner, Cattermole, Larsson, Vaughan; Dong-Won, Gyan
For this week's classic, we head back to October 5th 1991, when Sunderland came back from 2-1 down at half-time to beat Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 at Roker Park. On the score sheet that day was Gordon Armstrong, perhaps our greatest loanee ever in Peter Beagrie, whilst David Rush also grabbed a brace. David Rush of course given more of a starting role as John Byrne had departed to Brighton, and lined up for the losing team that day.
Get Rich Quick
Well, we allowed over-confidence to get to us last week, so we'll be having none of that this week. Surprisingly given that the hosts are top of the Championship and we've just come off a crushing defeat, we're still labelled as favourites for the game. The negative ninnies might want to take a look at Brighton to win on the night at 15/8 (BetFred). I'm however going to go slightly more optimistic, although not quite as wildly as last week and go for a Draw HT/SAFC FT result, which pays out at 5/1 (Bet365)
Song For Whoever
This weeks song for whoever is a cracker, and comes from someone on Twitter who didn't really want to be mentioned. So we won't mention you. They did request that we mention something else though as we're insistent on doing something, so be sure to follow @TrawlerTweets for your football nuggets.
Anyway, he who shall not be named picked out this belter of a tune from way back in 1981, it's entitled "Rumble In Brighton" by the somewhat ominously named, Stray Cats. Enjoy...
I'd have loved an easier draw than Brighton & Hove Albion away, but you've got to play a tough team at some point. I don't think for one minute we'll be able to go through to the next round hassle-free. My prediction for the game is a scrappy 1-0. Uninspiring from our lot, but job done. I hope.