The time for talking is almost over. Can Sunderland take another step forward in the World's most famous cup competition? Or will we come unstuck against an unpredictable Middlesbrough side? Martin O'Neill's side will go into the game oozing confidence having brushed aside the Welsh Barcelona last weekend and are the big favourites with the bookies for Sunday's clash.
As always here on Roker Report we will provide you with everything you need to know ahead of the game. Team news, predicted lineups, classic encounter, betting tips and some music to accompany it all.
SAFC Team News:
The big news coming out of Sunday's win over Swansea is of course the facial injury sustained by the much maligned Nicklas Bendtner. Whilst not everyone's cup of tea the Dane will be a big miss for O'Neill such is his importance in our current setup, helping to create space for the likes of Stephane Sessegnon. Such is his importance that it sounds as if the injury has turned Martin's hand late in this transfer window into being forced to look into recruiting a forward.
A number of players with first team aspirations were on show for the reserves midweek as the club ran out 1-0 winners in a competitive game with Bolton Wanderers. Most notably Craig Gordon, Michael Turner and Fraizer Campbell all figured and there has been talk that O'Neill may use Sunday's game to run the rule over the Scottish keeper, who's Sunderland future is up for debate.
As shown against Peterborough in the last round, the FA Cup is a competition that O'Neill is keen to take as seriously as injuries/suspensions allow. I see no reason for his mentality to change now and the tie is a great opportunity for Sunderland to remain in the velvet bag for the next round.
That said I believe there will be one or two alterations but we now have a squad with enough strength in depth to be in a position to do so without having to alter our style of play or attitude.
Middlesbrough Team News:
‘Boro come into the game facing something of an injury crisis, especially in the middle of the park. Keith Thomson and SAFC Cult Hero Julio Arca will have to watch on from the stands due to their dismissal in the Teesiders last outing, a 3-1 defeat to bottom of the table Coventry. Tony Mowbray will also have to make do with out his central midfielder Nicky Bailey who is currently sidelined through injury.
Mowbray will be keen to see his side bounce back from that disappointing defeat and has talked up his teams chances this week, adamant that he will put out the strongest eleven at his disposal.
SAFC: Gordon, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larrson, Cattermole, Gardner, McClean, Sessegnon, Wickham
MFC: Coyne, McMahon, Bates, McManus, Bennett, Williams, Smallwood, Haroun, Emnes, Robson, Jutkiewicz
In September of 2005 Sunderland secured their first league win, and first Premier League win in twenty-two games, at the Riverside. The invisible man Tommy Miller gave the visitors a dream start when confusion at the back from an Andy Gray flick allowed the midfielder to dart in behind the Boro backline and place his shot past Brad Jones. Middlesbrough rallied and some desperate defending combined with some inspired goalkeeping from Kelvin Davis kept Sunderland in the game. The Black Cats went on to double their lead in a controversial manner as the linesmans offside call was overruled by Howard Webb, who awarded SAFC a freekick for a foul on Miller. Up
stepped the beautiful little Argentine Julio Arca to curl a stunning freekick into the net. Boro were livid, Arca was delirious! Lets have another look:
Arca Goal v Boro.MPG (via Pcandler84)
Get Rich Quick:
As expected given the differing form of the two sides and that the hosts ply their trade in a division above their guests the bookies have Sunderland as firm favourites for Sunday's game. We've had a look aver the odds and like the look of the following, if having a flutter is your thing.
- Sunderland managed to shut out the mighty Swansea last time out, fancy a repeat of that solid defensive performance? SAFC to win to nil is available for around 6/4.
- Lee Cattermole to score against his hometown club? First/Last goalscorer is available for around 20/1, whilst anytime is at 7/1.
Song For Whoever:
Having stumbled across the Mackem Folk Singer during the week, I couldn't help but introduce you all to another one of his Sunderland ditties!
O'NEILLS A MAKEM NOW (via TheMakemFolksinger)
We've waited so long for a manager to take the FA Cup seriously and O'Neill certainly seems to fill that void. I expect another professional performance, much like the last round, and can see Sunderland running out 3-0 winners.