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Preview: Sunderland Searching For Something At St. Mary's

Sunderland head to Southampton this weekend hoping to pick up their first points of the season, but will have a tough time against the big-spending Saints.

Scott Heavey

Sunderland Team News

Sunderland look set to keep things the same as they were against Fulham for the trip to Southampton this weekend.

Wes Brown remains out injured with a slight knock, while the game comes too soon for Steven Fletcher to return, having only just came back into training. On top of those two though there isn't really any new injury worries for Paolo Di Canio.

If anything the Italian has a couple of options with the return of Craig Gardner from suspension along with new signing Charis Mavrias. Neither however are likely to impact the starting line up too much, and will likely find themselves on the bench.

We fully expect exactly the same side as last week being given a chance to prove their worth.

Southampton Team News

Mauricio Pochettino has new signing Pablo Osvaldo to play with now and will surely be looking to bring him into the side. Doing so though may well upset the balance of the side which won at West Bromwich Albion last time out.

If the Italian international is to come in, it's likely he would replace Adam Lallana who was the most lacklustre of the three-pronged forward line put in place at the Hawthorns.

That's one possible change. The rest however is likely to continue as is with a good mix of homegrown talent through their youth system and big money signings such as Victor Wanyama. Certainly Southampton will be a much tougher proposition than they were last year.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Westwood, Celustka, O'Shea, Roberge, Colback, Johnson, Larsson, Cabral, Giaccherini, Sessegnon, Altidore

Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Rodriguez, Lambert, Osvaldo

Key Matchup: Valentin Roberge Vs Rickie Lambert

Last week against Fulham, Valentin Roberge looked superb on the ball, but when it came to the games defining moment he was weak in the air against Patjim Kasami. Rickie Lambert can and will be a much tougher proposition than Kasami and even more likely to try and push and bully the Frenchman off the ball.

Should the pair find themselves together, Roberge will have to show more than he did against Fulham, and prove his recent apology for the error was more than just lip-service.

Recent Form

17/08/13: West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Southampton
10/08/13: Southampton 4-3 Real Sociedad
03/08/13: Celta Vigo 0-0 Southampton
27/07/13: Southampton 3-1 Besiktas
24/07/13: Southampton 0-2 Schalke 04
17/07/13: Llagostera 0-2 Southampton

Last Time Around: Southampton 0-1 Sunderland, 23/12/12

Sunderland came away from Southampton last time with a win thanks to Steven Fletcher's first half goal, in a relegation 6-pointer just before Christmas last year.

The hosts dominated the first half at St. Mary's but couldn't take any chances as they found Simon Mignolet, and notably John O'Shea in fine form.

However when Stephane Sessegnon's mis-hit shot fell to the feet of Fletcher, the Scottish international scored his second goal in three games to take the points.

The Ref: Lee Mason

Sunderland are in fact one of Lee Mason's most refereed teams, with him taking charge of 18 Premier League fixtures for us. During that time we've won 8, drawn 4 and lost 6.

He's awarded 7 penalties in our favour and only 3 against, which looks good but he's more card-happy when it comes to our players, awarding 34 yellow cards, amounting to 3 sending's off while never sending off a member of the opposition.

Last season he averaged only three cards a game, and a red average of one in ten.

What The Managers Said

Paolo Di Canio

It's a game we can easily lose because, in my opinion, Southampton are a top side now - a top-10 side

They spent over £35m on the last three players they brought in and they have added to what was already a good base. They started their revolution earlier than we did - and they will give us a tough game.

But we go there with a belief we can win. We know Southampton are a good side, but the way we will be this season, we will take on teams from Manchester United downwards believing we can win.

We have consistent good quality throughout the team and we are motivated.

Mauricio Pochettino

I can't really comment on what other teams do, but we are aware that we are going to face a rival that lost their first game against Fulham in their own stadium so they will be up and ready to get going with a result from their second game.

We just want to corroborate what we did in the first game against West Bromwich.

We obtained three very important points in our first game, and the first game of any season is always important, because it is tough. We just want to prolong the good job that we did at West Bromwich, in our own stadium for the second game because that will be very positive for us.

Roker Report Predicts

For some reason I wouldn't really be surprised with any result. A win isn't that unlikely. A draw seems likely and a defeat rated at about the same. When we went there last year I didn't give us much of a chance, and we managed to turn things around.

Of course we don't have Steven Fletcher any more, but I think we'll come away with at least a draw and surprise a few people. I'm going for 1-1 with Jozy Altidore getting our goal before a late equaliser.

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