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Preview: Result Required For Both Manager And Club

Gus Poyet takes his Sunderland side to Crystal Palace knowing that a win will see the Black Cats move out of the relegation zone, a third straight defeat however, and the Uruguayan could find himself struggling to hang onto his job.

Michael Regan

Sunderland Team News

Steven Fletcher limped off with a foot injury during the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend, but the 27-year-old is now training normally, and is fit to play on Monday.

Mounting speculation this week suggests Poyet is ready to hand Costel Pantilimon his first league start for the club in place of a confidence stricken Vito Mannone, but the Black Cats boss remained coy on the subject when fielding questions in mid-week, so just who will line up between the sticks against Crystal Palace remains anyone's guess.

Ricky Alvarez (knee) Sebastian Coates (hip) and Emanuele Giaccherini (ankle) are all still absent for Sunderland.

Crystal Palace Team News

Julian Speroni sustained a head injury and was withdrawn against West Brom last Saturday, but the Argentinian has since been cleared fit to play - and is expected to line up in goal.

Scott Dann (knee) and James McCarther (hip) will face late fitness tests ahead of the game, but it’s unlikely that either will be involved from the start.

Damian Delaney is available for selection again after serving a one-match ban. The 33-year-old should return to partner Brede Hangeland at the heart of the Palace defence.

Stuart O’Keefe (ankle) is a long-term absentee.

Predicted Line-ups

safc cpfc pred line up

Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Van Aanholt; Cattermole; Larsson, Rodwell, Johnson, Wickham; Fletcher.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Kelly, Hangeland, Delaney, Ward; Puncheon, Ledley, Jedinak, Bolasie; Chamakah, Campbell.

Key Match-up: Yanick Bolasie v Santiago Vergini

Crystal Palace have a great deal of pace and attacking flair on each side of their midfield, but it’s the 25-year-old Yanick Bolasie that could be identified as the Eagle’s primary threat ahead of the game at Selhurst Park.

The Black Cats have proven to be vulnerable down their right-side so far this season, and the presence of stand-in right-back Santiago Vergini has done little to help the situation. With Billy Jones currently side-lined, Vergini – or indeed Reveillere – will face a tough task neutralising Bolasie, who is not only quick and direct, but also very physical and stands at a towering 6"2.

For Sunderland to gain a positive result it is vital that they deal with the impetus that Crystal Palace possess on each flank. The performance of Patrick Van Aanholt at left-back will also bear a huge influence on the game, but there’s no doubt that Warnock will have highlighted the right-hand side of Sunderland’s defence as a weakness in the team – so keep a close eye on that specific area of the pitch on Monday night.

Sunderland Recent League Form: WLL

Win: Stoke City (H) 3-1

Loss: Southampton (A) 0-8

Loss: Arsenal (H) 0-2

Crystal Palace Recent League Form: LLD

Loss: Hull (A) 0-2

Loss: Chelsea (H) 1-2

Draw: West Brom (A) 2-2

Last Time Around: Sunderland 0-0 Crystal Palace (15/3/2014)

The previous meeting saw both sides play out an uninspiring 0-0 draw in a game that was ultimately lacking in any real quality.

At the time Sunderland were stranded in 18th place three points from safety and three points behind their South London opposition in the table. In a game where the Black Cats were desperate for a win, they ended up drawing a blank.

Adam Johnson was a thorn in the side of Palace all afternoon at the Stadium of Light, but neither he nor any of his teammates could quite grab a much needed three points for Sunderland.

Fabio Borini came closest to scoring with an effort that struck the post midway through the second half.

Prior to that Steven Fletcher had found himself just inches away from finding the net, only marginally failing to make a connection on a drilled cross from Borini.

The away side almost pinched all three points on the day. South African international Kagisho Dikgacoi missed a golden opportunity for the Eagles, the 28-year-old looked odds on to score late on but put his shot wide of the target.

The Ref

Monday’s match referee will be Phil Dowd. The Staffordshire-based official has been a member of the Select Group since its inception in 2001, and alongside Mike Dean and Chris Foy is one of the Premier Leagues longest serving referees with over 15 years’ experience at the top level.

The 51-year-old is officiating a Sunderland fixture for the first time this campaign, and has so far been in charge of some of this season's most high-profile games.

Dowd has shown a total of 28 yellow cards since the new season commenced back in August, and brandished his first red card of the season last weekend dismissing Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in the closing minutes against Manchester United on Sunday.

What The Manager’s Said

Gus Poyet:

"We have to make sure we don’t defend like we did against Southampton. They were nervous for 20 minutes against Arsenal, but tried their best after that and defended how we know they can. What we didn’t need were the two individual mistakes,

"There are decisions to make which I’m not afraid to make. It’s going to be my decision, which is why I’m in the job. I like these big decisions.

"Southampton is the game that really killed us and it’s why we want to win as soon as possible to put that behind us.

Neil Warnock:

"You don't kid yourself, results like Sunderland had (Southampton 8-0 Sunderland) don't happen very often,"

"Every game in this league is difficult to get maximum points which is why it was so disappointing last week not to get it."

"Every team has got a chance in every game, as we saw in midweek with Newcastle's fantastic (Capital One Cup) win at Man City.

"It is the closest Premier League for many years, apart from the top two and now you are saying 'is it the top two or the top one?'"

Roker Report Predicts

Sunderland have shown a lack of ideas going forward in recent weeks and have failed to score in their last two Premier League outings. For the Black Cats to leave Selhurst Park with any sort of result on Monday evening, it’s vital that they keep things tight at their own end.

Neil Warnock enjoyed a decent start to his second spell as Palace manager back in August, but the Eagles have begun to slip in recent weeks, registering only one point from a possible nine prior to the visit of Sunderland.

The Eagles however have had no problems finding the back of the net, and are sure to threaten what has been a fragile Sunderland back line of late. Should Warnock's side take the lead, I'm not convinced the Black Cats have enough about them at the moment to turn a game on it's head; and they could find themselves on the end of a defeat. 1-0 to Crystal Palace.

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