The games are coming thick and fast at the moment as just three days on from our FA Cup draw with Everton, we stay in the North West to take on Blackburn Rovers in the tie which would have been played at the weekend had we not been still in the competition.
So it's about time we previewed that action like only we can, with team news from both camps, some music, some betting tips (we've actually had winners last two weeks), and predictions and all sorts of other rhubarb. Join us...
Sunderland Team News
It looked as though we'd got through the FA Cup tie with Everton injury free, but Phil Bardsley's fall into the advertising boards seems to have been a bit of a stinger, but Bardsley, for all his flaws, would run through a brick wall to play for the club, and it looks like he'll make tonight's match. There are concerns over two others though.
So with that in mind there could be a different defence in front of Simon Mignolet at Ewood Park. John O'Shea has had a wrist injury for a few weeks, and despite his impressive form could be rested tonight against Blackburn with 'Big Greek' Sotirios Kyrgiakos coming in for his first appearance of the season. We're not aware of any concerns over Michael Turner, but he does seem to attract knocks, so the central defensive duo will almost certainly be made of Kyrgiakos plus another.
Wayne Bridge likely to continue at left-back with Richardson still injured.
Into midfield, there could be starts for David Meyler and David Vaughan as O'Neill looks to shuffle his pack a little with so many games over the rest of the month. Elmohamady could come into midfield ahead of a tired looking Sebastian Larsson, while James McClean should continue on the left hand side.
In attack, it's likely Nicklas Bendtner will be partnered by Fraizer Campbell, but don't rule out Connor Wickham coming in either, although that would seem to be an outside chance at best in my eyes.
Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon remain suspended, although Sessegnon is serving the final game of his ban tonight.
Blackburn Rovers Team News
Rovers had the fortune to not be playing this weekend, giving them a bit of extra time to prepare for tonight's clash. Whether that's a help or a hindrance we'll soon see I suppose.
Steve Kean's side still lurk near the bottom of the Premier League, but they've picked up a few wins of late over those around them, which as we know from experience are the most crucial ones to get, including notable wins over QPR and Wolves.
As for how they line-up, it should be a team long the same lines as the one which won handily at Wolves last time out. That means there'll be Paul Robinson in goal, and in front of him a back four of Jason Lowe, Scott Dann, Grant Hanley and Martin Olsson. There's an outside chance that Bradley Orr could return in place of Lowe, but I've a feeling Kean won't upset a winning side.
Across the midfield there should be starts for Mauro Formica and Martin's brother Marcus Olsson on the wings, with Morten Gamst Pedersen and Steven N'Zonzi in the middle. Look for Junior Hoilett to support Yakubu in attack where possible, but Hoilett will also drop wide when we're in possession to try and cluster the midfield.
We can expect Blackburn to do most their attacking through the middle looking at their stats for the season, meaning Colback and Gardner will have to stay disciplined throughout and not get caught too wide of each other. Simon Mignolet should also be busy as Blackburn are among the highest teams in the league for number of shots taken.
SAFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, Turner, Kyrgiakos, Bridge, Larsson, Colback, Vaughan, McClean, Campbell, Bendtner
Blackburn: Robinson, Lowe, Dann, Hanley, Martin Olsson, Formica, Pedersen, N'Zonzi, Marcus Olsson, Hoilett, Yakubu
How can we look much further back than earlier this season, and Martin O'Neill's first game in charge of the club? So much good feeling and anticipation around the club. There was genuine hope for the first time in a long time.
Then it all, sort of, fell apart. Simon Vuckevic opening the scoring in the first half, and despite all the positive pre-match vibes, it was a reminder that the last few weeks had been incredibly rubbish. Hope was restored, as was parity in the game when David Vaughan leathered in the equalising goal, only to be topped in the last seconds when Seb Larsson's freekick sailed into the bottom corner, sending 40,000 fans and their new messiah into raptures.
Get Rich Quick
Last time I wrote this feature I had a winner. A nice 13/2 winner at that, so perhaps you'll want to pay attention this week and ear yourself some coin. So, with that in mind, here's my picks of the week...
- Draw/Sunderland in the half-time/full-time betting was lucky for me last time out, and with it available at around 9/2, I'm going to take it again against Blackburn, which I think will be a tougher game than many envisage.
- That said, I do think we will eventually win a tight contest in Lancashire, and a 2-1 win for us looks quite enticing when the odds are available at around the 10/1 mark.
- Nicklas Bendtner has been in decent form of late with two goals in his last three games, and not just that but his all round games improved. Odds available at 7/1 for him to open the scoring? Yes please.
Song For Whoever
This is the part where we pick a song appropriate to the opposition or the mood, the game or a particular player and so forth. Today however it's more appropriate to the general mood around the club at the moment, and that's why I've chosen the upbeat tones of The B-52's and "Keep This Party Going"...
With Blackburn being quite hit and miss, there's no telling which Rovers side will turn up. Despite the side's precarious league standing, I think this game will be harder than many anticipate, and a narrow 2-1 victory for us will be just grand I think. Bendtner with a brace.