This is actually only the second Roker Report match day preview I have done this year. The first, as luck would have it, was the clash at the Stadium of Light against Manchester City. That was a good day. Can this one match it?
Coming off the pretty atrocious performance and disappointment of Everton, a visit to the home of mega-rich title-chases eying vengeance for Ji Dong-won's last second Stadium of Light winner was not what we really wanted this week. But, the fixture computers is one heartless fiend, and to City we go.
Sunderland Team News
O'Neill will have to do without on-loan Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge, who is ineligible to face his parent club. With Kieran Richardson also struggling for fitness of late, that could press Jack Colback, who returns to the squad having missed out midweek following the birth of his first child, into emergency full-back duty. Another option is Matthew Kilgallon - a hero of the reverse fixture.
Sunderland face further problems in defence with Wes Brown and Titus Bramble still absentees, whilst John O'Shea is presumable still struggling with the calf complaint which forced him to hobble off against Queens Park Rangers.
Of those fit and available, the big question will be whether there are any repercussions for those especially poor against Everton. Looking to beef up the midfield may also be playing heavily on O'Neill's mind.
Manchester City Team News
City captain and key defender Vincent Kompany will return this weekend 'if all goes to plan' after missing four games with a hamstring injury.
Sergio Aguero missed last week's draw at Stoke, and will also sit out this one as the striker is still ailing. The latest training ground 'bust-up' between Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini would likely make the Italian a likely candidate to drop out also. Speaking of news-hogs, Carlos Tevez scored for Manchester City reserves in midweek whilst he bids to regain fitness following his gardening leave, and in a case of 'needs must' the Argentine could well be in line for a start.
SAFC: Mignolet, Bardsley, Kyrgiakos, Turner, Colback, Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Man City: Hart, Richards, Kolarov, K Toure, Kompany, Y Toure, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Johnson, Tevez.
When a buoyant Sunderland visited Main Road on 17th January 1998, one lovable little goal-machine returned to Wearside with a little bit of history. When Kevin Phillips bagged the only goal from a typically sumptuous Nick Summerbee cross, he equalled the club record of scoring in seven consecutive games. The season ended in heartbreak for both clubs. City were relegated to the third tier, whilst Sunderland lost to Charlton at Wembley to deny them promotion.
Get Rich Quick
I picked out a winner last time out when I backed a Sunderland win, so I have no intention of putting my 100% record on the line for this one! So instead, I turned to some professional help. No, not a therapist who specialises in narcissism, but professional TEAMtalk tipster Matty Briggs. Here are his picks:
- Sunderland to win 1-0 (35/1) with Paddy Power - Sunderland’s last two wins over Man City have been by a 1-0 (both at Stadium of Light though)
- Bendtner 14/1 to score 1st or 11/2 to score anytime with William Hills - Nicklas Bendtner has scored in three of his last four Premier League games and also in his last appearance at the Etihad Stadium in a 3-0 win over City.
- Man City half-time, draw full-time 28/1 Bet Victor - 82% of the goals Manchester City have conceded have come in the second half of games whilst 18% of the goals Sunderland have conceded have been shipped in the opening 15 minutes of games.
Song For Whoever
Given the events of the week, I was looking for something to really capture the essence of being a Sunderland fan. This little ditty from Saliva seemed to fit nicely. "I love you, I hate you, I can't live without you' - well, yes. Quite.
So, can Martin O'Neill lead Sunderland to an unlikely double against City? Given their 100% league home record, it is certainly a daunting task. No fun in pessimism, though, so with City looking like they could be feeling the heat of the title chase a little, I'll plump for a battling 1-1 draw.
Ha'way the lads.