South Korean dreamboat Ki Sung-Yueng was the Sunderland player tipped for success last week, however he didn't have one of his better games against Southampton. With the home side's midfield totally over-run for the first half an hour, Ki didn't have much of a chance to make an impact. However, it was his driving run and crossfield ball that eventually led to Adam Johnson's equaliser so even in the midst of one of his poorer games the Korean still provided a vital contribution. This was unfortunately though not reflected in his points tally, as he picked up just the solitary point.The other player I advised keeping an eye on was Chelsea's John Terry. Although he played the full 90 minutes for the victorious Blues side, the central defender picked up just two points with Hernandez's goal for Manchester United denying him points for a clean sheet.
The tips on who to avoid were more successful, although Steven Fletcher came on for the final twenty minutes against Southampton he was, as I predicted, dropped from the starting line-up and brought home just one point. Likewise, despite playing nearly a full half against Liverpool Grant Holt failed to make an impact on his second Premier Leaguedebut and also scored just one point.
In the midweek round of games Sunderland have a good chance of bringing home all three points with the visit of Stoke City to the Stadium of Light, whilst the fixture list also features an enticing Merseyside Derby and a crucial test for Tim Sherwood's new-look Spurs side as Manchester City visit White Hart Lane. Then at the weekend there's the small matter of the second derby of the season to look forward to, as well as a critical game at the top of the table as Jose Mourinho takes Chelsea up to the Etihad Stadium.
Sunderland Player To Watch: Adam Johnson
Johnson was once again vital in our last Premier League fixture, with the winger's goal and assist digging us out of the hole a miserable opening half an hour had left us in. Although he wasn't at his best against Manchester United, he still worked his socks off and more than played his part in getting Sunderland to Wembley. The visit of Stoke side who look to have lost their oak-carved defensive solidity of old gives Johnson a great chance to show that his fine form is not just a temporary peak. If the Wearsider gets into his stride against the Potters then we could be going into the weekend on a real high.
General Player To Watch: Juan Mata
Despite the brilliant form of Oscar in Mata's old no.10 position at Chelsea this season, it's a massive move for the London side to let the Spaniard move to the (ineptly) defending champions. The huge numbers of goals and assists that he has chipped in with during his two and half seasons at Chelsea will surely prove a massive boon for Manchester United, and with Wayne Rooney still out and Shinji Kagawa out of favour you'd have to fancy David Moyes will opt to stick his record singing straight into the starting eleven. Considering also that United's midweek fixture is against bottom of the table Cardiff you have to fancy Mata to prove that he is still one of the best players in the Premier League.
Sunderland Player To Avoid: Emanuele Giaccherini
The Italian has spent more time on the bench than on the pitch in recent weeks, with Gus Poyet preferring his countryman Fabio Borini on the left wing. When handed a chance to stake a claim for a first team spot against non-league Kidderminster at the weekend Giaccherini failed to impress and will surely find himself dropped back down to the bench again on Wednesday. It's a shame as he was a really exciting transfer in the summer, but it just doesn't seem to be working at the moment and it's hard to see what he actually brings to the team.
General Player To Avoid: Romelu Lukaku
The Belgian hasn't been as impressive for Everton of late, bagging just two goals in his last ten appearances in the league. Although he has managed to chip in with a few assists during that time, it is beginning to look clear why Mourinho made the decision to loan the striker out. Although he is clearly a huge talent, his touch and decision-making do occasionally go very awry and he is still a fair way away from reaching the levels of consistency he'd need to be a first choice pick for Chelsea. Whilst Everton have been arguably the more impressive of the two Merseyside teams this season, I still can't quite see Lukaku finding much joy even against Liverpool's often shaky defence.
Sunderland Player To Watch: Ki Sung-Yueng
If we win at the weekend it makes it three derby wins in a row, which would just be fantastic. Even if we draw, it would still be five straight unbeaten derbies with 2011 the last time we lost one. At times like these it has to be your best players who step up to the plate and deliver, and at this moment in time Ki surely has a strong claim to be the jewel in our crown. Well, perhaps crown is a bit strong, the sticker on our snapback perhaps. With Newcastle's midfield often lauded as the key part of their side, it will be a tough ask for the Korean to assert himself on the game as impressively as he has previously but if he can manage it then we could be in with a brilliant chance of heading home with yet another win at St. James'. One thing in our favour could be the growing rumours that Newcastle's midfield lynchpin, Yohan Cabaye, could be off to either Paris St-Germain or Manchester United before the transfer window slams shut. If that were to happen, then the Frenchman would doubtless be a huge loss for Pardew's side.
General Player To Watch: Oscar
This is a big call, but surely someone has to finally bring something home with them from the Etihad. If it's going to be anyone, then you'd have to put your money on Chelsea. They're starting to look ominous, grinding out the wins with the kind of ruthless efficiency that Mourinho finds so much more satisfying than Manchester City's freewheeling goal-fests. Whilst the decision to drop and then sell Juan Mata may be hard to comprehend giving the sheer talent of the Spaniard, the decision to give Oscar the key role in Chelsea's midfield is one that has proven to be a master-stroke. The Brazilian scored a fantastic free-kick against Stoke in the FA Cup at the weekend and I fancy him to give Manchester City a rude shock as his side travel back to London with a boyish hero, a 1-0 win, and an incredibly smug manager.
Sunderland Player To Avoid: Lee Cattermole
I like Lee Cattermole, I think his ability as an actual footballer is under-rated and so far he's looked fairly decent, though there have been some very shaky moments, in Poyet's system. However, by the time the derby comes round there's a chance that Poyet could have landed his old Brighton protegee Liam Bridcutt who would quite possibly come into the side at the expense of our erstwhile captain. Even if Cattermole does play, then I fear this could be one of his bad days. With Phil Dowd appointed as the referee for the fixture, I wouldn't be surprised if the Teesider enforced his way into an early bath at the expense of Cheick Tiote's ankles.
General Player(s)To Avoid: The Newcastle Squad
Come on, it's the derby! How could you look yourself in the mirror if you gained points from players of a black and white persuasion at the expense of Sunderland? Ditch them now using the Wildcard if necessary, and let's just hope the lads don't make you regret it...