It's been a very lean few weeks, with little to nothing to bother shouting about. A struggling Bolton side, at home, should represent us with a good chance to turn things around before they get even more out of hand. Mind you, we said that about Wolves too the other week, so all I'm holding out for this week is at the very least a goal or two to raise the spirits.
So here's this weeks Sunderland v Bolton preview. We've got a mix of team news, predictions, music, betting and loads more besides, so come and get yourself stuck right in...
Sunderland Team News
Obviously there's at least one change to be made with Craig Gardner picking up a needless red card at Aston Villa last weekend. As to who'll replace him, the most likely candidate you'd think would be David Meyler. The Irishman hasn't played very much this season, but has waited patiently for his chance, and after weeks of threatening, perhaps this is the week Martin O'Neill finally gives some of the fringe players a chance.
Simon Mignolet looks set to continue in goal, sat behind a back four of John O'Shea, Michael Turner, Matt Kilgallon and most likely Phil Bardsley, since Kieran Richardson has had some season-ending surgery this week. Wayne Bridge could get a run, and would be my personal preferred choice.
The midfield will also have a different look to it. Sebastian Larsson has like Richardson undergone season-ending surgery, and it looks like we could be seeing the return of Ahmed Elmohamady down the wing after O'Neill promised him a run. James McClean will be going at it down the left hand side, with Meyler and Jack Colback aka The Rug from The Big Lebowski in the middle (he just ties everything together, does he not?).
Stephane Sessegnon and Nicklas Bendtner will continue in attack. If there's to be any change it's likely to be Fraizer Campbell for Bendtner, but if that's not made from the start, Campbell should still see some significant playing time as the squad system is used.
Bolton Wanderers Team News
Bolton themselves have some injury problems ahead of this game, with Stuart Holden, Chung Yong Lee, Tyrone Mears and of course the unfortunate Fabrice Muamba all missing.
Adam Bogdan should retain his place in goal ahead of Jussi Jaaskelainen, and there's not much reason for Bolton to change elsewhere really after beating Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park on Tuesday.
This means a defence of Gretar Steinsson, Tim Ream, David Wheater and Sam Ricketts. A midfield four of Ryo Miyaichi, Nigel Reo-Coker, Mark Davies and Martin Petrov with Chris Eagles supporting David N'Gog, but dropping into midfield when we're in possession.
Bolton's weaknesses could also be their strength in this game. The back four is nothing to write home about, and you'd fancy all our front four to be able to get the better of them. However, it's also their strength as the likes of Wheater are massive, and Turner aside, we're pretty much a team of midgets. Set plays will be Bolton's most likely route to goal in this game.
SAFC: Mignolet; O'Shea, Turner, Kilgallon, Bardsley; Elmohamady, Meyler, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Bendtner
BWFC: Bogdan; Steinsson, Ream, Wheater, Ricketts; Miyaichi, Reo-Coker, Davies, Petrov; Eagles; N'Gog
This one comes from the 2002/03 season, and an FA Cup Third Round Replay, in which not only we did we beat Bolton after extra time 2-0, the game was notable for an incredibly rare, Nicholas Medina sighting. The Argentine started in the middle of the park before eventually being replaced by Stan Varga. The game itself was 2-0 after extra time before a dismal crowd of 14,000 at the Stadium Of Light. Goals came from Julio Arca, and substitute Michael Proctor.
Get Rich Quick
David Boyle had a few winners last time around against Aston Villa when he did the preview, so there's no pressure at all here for me to match him, no? Oh, right. Well here's my selections...
- We're good down the wings, particularly the left, and Bolton are statistically pretty poor at defending wing play. This is why I'm looking at McClean having a bit of a stormer, and supplying Nicklas Bendtner with a cross for the first goal. You can find odds at around 6/1 for that.
- A halftime draw with us eventually winning at fulltime looks tempting at 4/1 too. We tend to be more of a second half team, so that would be a nice cover for all your other bets to at least get your money back.
- And lastly, a one which is a bit of a goof and a long shot. Why not stick a bit on John O'Shea to score at any time at a nice looking 16/1. He get's forward for corners, and is quite decent once he gets in the position, so perhaps it's about time he got one.
Song For Whoever
This week's song selection comes from The Stone Roses, and their track "This Is The One" which for the purposes of this article I'm giving the new title "This Is The One (We'll Actually Win, Or At Least Score In)"... Wordier than the original, but fitting I feel. Anyway, here's the track...
As I said on our podcast this week, I don't think it's going to be one for the neutral, nor anything particularly exciting. Think more along the lines of the Wolves home game with slight improvement. We'll come away with an ugly and uninteresting 1-0 win I think to put us firmly in the mix for a top ten position come the end of the season. A defeat, and we might as well write off that dream.