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Sunderland v WBA Preview - Huge Game For Poyet's Men

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The issues between Gus Poyet and the Sunderland fans were bandaged over yesterday when the head coach addressed us with a letter, attempting to bring discontented supporters back on board ahead of a huge game with Tony Pulis' inform West Bromwich Albion tomorrow at the Stadium of Light. This may be our most important fixture of this season to date.

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Sunderland Team News:

Jermaine Defoe and Lee Cattermole are rated as having a 50/50 chance of playing, and it's their inclusion that is most needed following the horrific display against Bradford City last weekend.

Emanuele Giaccherini and Jack Rodwell could be involved but it will be a late call as to whether either will feature in the matchday squad. Anthony Reveillere (hamstring) and Will Buckley (knee) are almost certainly ruled out due to ongoing issues.

West Brom Team News:

The Baggies have an almost full squad to choose from, with only Youssof Mulumbu (hamstring) expected to miss out.

Predicted Line-Ups:

WBA

With Sunderland being at home I'd expect we'll see the return of Santiago Vergini, Jordi Gomez, Adam Johnson, Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe to the starting lineup.

Since Tony Pulis took over at the Hawthorns his side have noticeably improved their defending whilst importantly creating chances for their summer signing Brown Ideye, who is in a fantastic run of goalscoring form. You'd have to imagine that Pulis will fancy pitting Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner against their former employers.

Sunderland: Pantillimon, Van Aanholt, O'Shea, Vergini, Jones, Bridcutt, Gomez, Larsson, Johnson, Wickham, Defoe.

WBA: Foster, Brunt, Lescott, McCauley, Dawson, Fletcher, Morrison, Gardner, Sessegnon, Berahino, Ideye.

Interesting Stats:

West Brom have beaten Sunderland eight times in the Premier League, more than they have defeated any other side in this competition. You could say they are a bit of a bogey side.

Stephane Sessegnon seems to flourish in this fixture, having scored in three of his last four games when starting in this tie. Two goals for Sunderland, one for West Brom. Don't be surprised if he does it again at the weekend!

Key Match-up - Stephane Sessegnon v Patrick Van Aanholt:

Against Queens Park Rangers our left hand side was noticeably exposed for much of the game and you'd have to imagine that Tony Pulis will want Stephane Sessegnon exploiting the space we often leave when our full backs bomb forward, particularly when Patrick Van Aanholt is caught wandering as he often does so.

Nobody knows more than Sunderland fans just what Sess is capable of when he is at his best - often frustrating and explosive in equal measures - but it's a key area of the pitch in which both sides are capable of creating goalscoring chances from. Sessegnon, like Van Aanholt, isn't always where he needs to be and it's at those moments when you'd like to think the Dutch full back can get into good attacking positions and create opportunities for our forwards.

Recent Form - WWDLWD

WBA 4 - 0 West Ham United

WBA 2 - 0 Swansea City

Burnley 2 - 2 WBA

WBA 0 - 3 Tottenham Hotspur

Birmingham City 1 - 2 WBA

Everton 0 - 0 WBA

Barring a loss against inform Tottenham Hotspur at the Hawthorns, Tony Pulis' side have been in a decent spell of form, culminating with a thumping victory last weekend in the FA Cup against high-fliers West Ham United. Brown Ideye is finally scoring goals regularly, their last two results have included a clean sheet in each game and they are virtually injury free. It's a fairly positive time to be a West Brom fan after such a poor start to the season - a change of manager often does that to a club.

Last Time Around - Sunderland 2 - 0 West Brom (07/05/2014 - Attendance 45,181):

Last season's match report:

Sunderland will be a Premier League club next season after a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion completed, not the great escape, but the greatest escape.

Jack Colback and Fabio Borini scored the goals, both in the first half, on a memorable night on Wearside. Four wins in a row, 13 points from the last 15, safe with one game to spare.

But you don't want a match report. Stuff match reports. Details are an utter irrelevance tonight. All anyone cares about are three little words that mean the world:

WE ARE SAFE

Referee: Mike Jones

Mike Jones and Sunderland have an interesting history. He was the man that failed to disallow the famous beachball goal when we beat Liverpool at the Stadium of Light in 2009, which in turn seen him dropped from Premier League duty. Other than that I don't think we've had any bother from him over the years.

What The Managers Said:

Gus Poyet (in his letter to the fans yesterday):

"For the first time in my life I think is time for me to write this letter to you, the fans. When I had the opportunity to become the head coach of Sunderland AFC, I just closed my eyes and remember me sitting at the away dressing room at the Stadium of Light at half time, 4-0 down, Sunderland 4 Chelsea 0, incredible atmosphere, one of the best I ever felt, so the decision was easy, yes I would love the possibility of coaching Sunderland with those fans.

Luckily I got the job. I was brought into the club to stay in the Premier League first and most, then get stability and then progress with an identity in our game.

The first goal was the most difficult task of my life but we not only stayed up in a miraculous way, we went to Wembley for the first time in years, plus successful games against our biggest rivals and enjoyed some incredible victories away from home.

What we achieved last year was achieved by all of us together: club (chairman, directors, staff and players) and fans, nobody and I mean nobody from outside helped us a bit, it was only us together. Then my second aim was to achieve stability, progression and then slowly start bringing a special way of playing football to make you very proud of our team. This takes time, but even if the aim is clear during the process, we need to keep competing and winning games somehow.

During my career as a player, coach or manager, I have always had a fantastic relationship with the fans, from my time in Uruguay going through every team in Europe, always the relationship was strong, one of mutual respect and understanding, I showed from inside or from outside the pitch, my commitment, passion and dedication in achieving what every club deserved.

Of course I went through good and bad times, successful and not so good ones, winning or losing finals, but I left every single club having a recognition from the fans for my honesty, passion and professional work. So let's make sure that we don’t let anyone to break our relationship, I promise you that I care and want to win as much as you do and no one thinks more time every day about the team than I do, so I invite all of you to stay positive, to be strong, closer to each other and keep believing in what we started together last year, working harder to make it better this season.

To finish I would like to clarify once more: the main responsible of the results of our team is me, I always said it and I will always accept my responsibility. I am really looking forward to see the Stadium of Light packed on Saturday, pushing the team to what could be a very important victory."

Tony Penis:

"I’ve got absolutely no thoughts about Aston Villa.

My only thoughts are on this game on Saturday and that will move on then to Southampton and that’s the way I’ll be. For all the talk and all the hype we’ve got loads of stuff in front of us before we even open that door.

Gus says what he thinks. He's as straight as a die and I enjoy his company.

What Gus does is up to him. He's coached, managed and done very well. He's not done too bad.

Sunderland have great expectations, it's a wonderful football club and the North East is a very passionate area.

Expectations are high up there, Gus will understand that. They are big clubs, Sunderland are the fifth best supported team. Everyone wants to see their team winning."

Roker Report Predicts:

West Brom are going to be coming to the Stadium of Light in good form with only one thing in mind - three points. Although you'd like to think that the same thing goes for Sunderland, the players will surely be low on confidence with the last few results in mind. That said, anything less than a win will be a disappointing result in the eyes of many Sunderland fans and a good start is massively important if we are going to take anything from the match. It's hard to call, but I'm going for a 1-0 win for the lads.