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West Bromwich Albion vs Sunderland Preview: Poyet Looking For Points As Well As Possession

Football. Sweet, beautiful, agonising football is back. As Sunderland travel to the midlands we have all your essential pre-match information.

Paul Thomas

Sunderland Team News

Gus Poyet has publicly stated that he knows six of his starting eleven, with the recent addition of Will Buckley adding to his attacking options.

Vito Mannone will hope to prevent a debut for Costel Pantilimon, whilst Billy Jones and Santiago Vergini will compete for the starting spot at right-back.

In midfield, Lee Cattermole is expected to marshal his side from the base, with Jack Rodwell and either Seb Larsson or Jordi Gomez ahead of him. On the left-hand side, new signing Patrick van Aalholt will look to link up with one of Buckley, Gomez or Connor Wickham, depending on how Poyet uses the position to influence proceedings.

Both Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini are unlikely to feature - the pair still some way from returning from injury.

West Bromwich Albion Team News

Alan Irvine's main decision will be whether to hand record signing Brown Ideye a debut despite only recently joining up with his new side. The former Sochaux man scored twice in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday and is being considered for a speedy introduction to the Premier League, although is likely to deputise the lively Saido Berahino.

World Cup star Christian Gamboa is still waiting on a visa before linking up with the Baggies, so fellow new recruit Andre Wisdom is set to start at right-back. Former Sunderland pair Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon are both likely to feature.

New signing Joleon Lescott has joined James Morrison and Gareth McAuley on the injury list, and all three are expected to miss the first few games of the season.

Predicted Lineups

West Bromwich Albion vs Sunderland - Football tactics and formations

SAFC: Mannone; Vergini, Brown, O'Shea, van Aaholt; Cattermole; Johnson, Rodwell, Gomez, Wickham; Fletcher

WBA: Foster; Wisdom, Olsson, Dawson, Pognocoli; Yacob, Mulumbu; Dorrans, Gardner, Sessegnon; Berahino

Key Matchup: Youssouf Mulumbu vs Jack Rodwell

In Rodwell, Poyet has the size and energy needed to lead his pressing methods and the former Everton man has already spoken about his aim to influence his side at either end of the pitch. Mulumbu, a comparably all-action midfielder, has had a similar role under previous managers, and it is fair to expect similar under Alan Irvine. Both will be expected to break up play, as well as laying the foundations for forays towards goal.

Frankly, the way Poyet wants his side to transition from pressing to probing could live or die with how Rodwell's career on Wearside begins. Whilst Larsson and Jack Colback showed promise in the role last season, neither has the physical presence or balance of Sunderland's biggest signing of the summer to date.

Recent Form: N/A

Last Time Around: West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Sunderland, 21/09/13

The game that ended Paolo Di Canio's tenure as Sunderland manager, Stephane Sessegnon unsurprisingly opened the scoring against his former club.

Other than that, and further goals from Liam Ridgewell and Morgan Amalfitano, the game is better remembered for the stand-off between Di Canio and a fed-up gathering of travelling fans.

The Ref: Neil Swarbick

For the second successive season, Sunderland begin a campaign with the Lancashire-based man in the middle.

Sunderland have had balanced results with Swarbick since his promotion to the Premier League - two 3-0 wins against Reading and West Ham United in 2012/2013 offset by failing to win a league game he officiated last season, although the Black Cats managed a 3-1 win over Carlisle United in the FA Cup.

What The Managers Said

Gus Poyet

We feel like it's started - we're talking about West Brom, planning, checking on little things and making sure we are ready

Overall, we are - the group is strong, we've been training well, fitness levels are right.

It'll be very tough, it's always very tight in the beginning, then around the months of November, December, January things open up a bit. In the beginning everyone is trying to get points somehow.

It's going to be a tough game [at West Brom], but like I've said we are ready to go.

We know each other very well so there's no secrets. We need to go there with the confidence that we can win.

Alan Irvine

People will be looking at it and thinking we've got a difficult job.

They know what happened last season.

The only thing that changes that is us getting the right results.

We can worry about the past and what people are saying or we can get on with the work - and hopefully get the right results.

Roker Report Predicts

Despite being away from home, I think Poyet will see this as an almost-perfect opportunity.

Against a team very much in transition, the Uruguayan will expect a more polished implementation of his pass-with-the-ball-press-without-it philosophy having had a full pre-season with his charges. In contrast, it is difficult to know just how West Brom will go.

With that and the usual start-of-season optimism in mind, we think a 2-0 away win is in order, with the fit-again Steven Fletcher opening the scoring.