Those of you familiar with the Roker Report podcast, and I would sincerely hope that applies to each and every one of you, will know that Michael Graham likes to 'blow his own trumpet', for want of a better phrase. With that in mind, I decided to have a look back over the New Year predictions that we at Roker Report did, and saw that I said that we'd get to the FA Cup semi final this season. Now only one game stands in the way of my ability to gloat in a Graham-esque manner.
That's right, it's FA Cup time again, and our men in red and white have got an appointment at Goodison Park to take on the Toffees of Everton in the quarter final. As we speculated this week on the pod, it's going to be a tough tie, and if I'm doing this preview right, then it should only serve to stir your nerves a little bit more. Things couldn't be closer between the two teams in the league, with only goal difference seperating us, but we all know what our recent record against Everton is like. If you look back over our last four visits to Goodison, we're 14-1 down on aggregate.
If you're lucky enough to be going to the game this weekend, I envy you. if you're going to the Stadium of Light to watch it on the screens with hundreds/thousands of like-minded folk, I envy you. Hell, even if you get to watch it on a tv and not a rubbish stream on your computer, I envy you.
But enough of my rubbish. It's time to get on with the game on Saturday with team news, a classic encounter, a few ways to win a quid or two, and a song that sums up the game nicely. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, let's have a look at Everton v Sunderland in the semi final of the FA Cup.
Sunderland Team News
The big talking point of the week is whether frontman Nicklas Bendtner would be fit having had to be stretchered off during the 1-0 victory over Liverpool at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Thankfully for us, it looks like our frontman, who has scored two goals in his last two games, looks like he is going to make it in time for the big game, boosting our options at the business end of the field.
Wayne Bridge had to deputise for Kieran Richardson in the afore-mentioned win over Liverpool, and he looks set to continue at left back, as Ricco hasn't recovered from the injury that kept him out of that game.
Otherwise, there is little to report squad-wise. Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole are still both serving suspensions, meaning that Jack Colback is likely to keep his place in the midfield in place of the captain. The spot that is probably up for grabs is the one currently held by Fraizer Campbell. It will be interesting to see whether Martin O'Neill plumps for two up top, as he did against Liverpool, or decides to pack the midfield with David Vaughan taking his place, and concentrates on keeping Everton out.
Everton Team News
David Moyes has somewhat turned the spotlight onto himself before this game by resting no fewer than six players for the Merseyside derby in midweek. Nikica Jelavic, Phil Neville, John Heitinga and Leon Osman, all considered first-team starters were all left out in the crushing 3-0 defeat to Liverpool, as was regular Sunderland tormentor Tim Cahill.
Aside from the enforced changes, Moyes seems to have no fresh injuries to be concerned about, so it's just a case of shuffling the pack and getting the best out of what's available to him. There are no doubt several dangerous players in his team, but with a top scorer that only boasts four goals, Sunderland should be confident that a shut-out is possible against Saturday's opponents.
SAFC: Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, O'Shea, Bridge; Larsson, Vaughan, Colback, McClean, Gardner; Bendtner
Everton: Howard; Neville, Distin, Heitinga, Baines; Coleman, Fellaini, Osman, Cahill, Drenthe; Jelavic
With Cup fever in mind, we're going back to 1998 for our classic encounter this week, as the Black Cats took on this weekend's hosts at Goodison Park in the League Cup.
Recent Roker Report interviewee Michael Bridges gave Sunderland the lead in a first half that the away team dominated, but Everton pegged the tie back thanks to a John Collins free kick.
Despite the home side pushing and looking like the team more likely to win the contest as the game went through overtime, there were no more goals, and the tie went to penalties.
Successful penalties from Martin Scott, Allan Johnston and Martin Smith were cancelled out by Michael Ball, Collins again and Materazzi, before Chris Makin saw his spot kick saved by Thomas Myhre, but John Oster put wide for the Toffees. When Clark scored for the Black Cats, Grant did the same for the home side, but Quinn's successful penalty couldn't be matched by Ibrahim Bakayoko, and the visitors were through to the next round.
Get Rich Quick
Again, and sorry to keep harping on about it, but if you listened to the podcast this week, you'll know that we all actually think that Saturday is destined to be a 1-1 draw. Not sure why, but that's the score that came into all of our heads.
Now I'm not the best at gambling, and I don't like to put a pound on something that won't have a reasonable return, so with that in mind, let's see what we can do.
- We all know what happened the last time that we played Everton, as we conceded to the 'penalty that never was'. So, if we were to be unfortunate to give away another thanks to some moronic referee, how does Leighton Baines to score first, and a 1-1 draw sound? You should be able to pick that up at about 65/1.
- Our cup adventures have seen most of the action happening in the second half so far (I think anyway, that seems to make sense to me) so you can get half time 0-0 and full time 1-1 at a pretty generous 15/1.
- If, like Simon Walsh, you are persuaded into choosing a different score, or you are just genuinely optimistic that we are going to win this one and the Party with Marty will be going into overdrive, then Mr Bendtner looks a good pick for first goal in his attempts to make it three in three. With the great Dane scoring first, a 2-0 win will also come up trumps at 65/1.
- And, just because I like betting, a horribly tight match, decided by one moment of genius sees Sunderland 1 Everton 0, goal by Sebastian Larsson available at 60/1.