The opening game of the 2015/16 season is finally upon us. There's been a different feel around the Stadium of Light this Summer. For the first time you get the sense that the Chairman, Director of Football and Head Coach are genuinely working well together with what appears to be a strong professional relationship which is yielding results.
Last season, before Dick had even re-signed up, he echoed many of our sentiments in the need to significantly improve our playing staff. With that we've seen a stream of players enter the Academy, scarves a loft. Where past transfer acquisitions seemed to reveal little in terms of foresight and forward planning, this window has been different. So far it's undeniably apparent we have a Head Coach who knows what he wants with a Director of Football who knows how to get it, as for once all our signings actually make sense.
A solid but aging defence has now been complemented with acquisitions the right side of 30, add to that an injection of pace and depth among our defensive ranks gives us a very healthy options at the back. At the attacking end of the pitch our new Dutch International will bring a much needed pace and direct attacking intent. With Lee Congerton still working hard with three weeks remaining of the window there should be more attacking numbers to be added to our ranks in the near future. Then we have our Midfield, an area not thought to be an area of concentration, but some concerning pre-season performances led some decisive actions in the transfer market. In comes Jann M'vila, a french international who just two years ago had the world at his feet. 30 million price tags were bandied about with a queue of suitors to pay it, but a poor career choice and some disciplinary problems has seen his career stall. The loan makes it risk free for Sunderland, where as Yann must surely see this loan as the last chance saloon to reignite his career. If the Little General can't get him back on the straight and narrow, performing to his best then who can?
It's not a squad that's suddenly going to transform our fortunes and turn us into world beaters, but from the outside looking in it's hard to argue against the ideal that the club is finally starting to progress and improve after season up on season of stagnation which has led to constant flirtation with relegation.
But while we've been strengthening, so have others. Saturday will see us open the campaign with a very tough away trip to last season's escapologists Leicester City who's fine run of form saw them pull away from the drop zone in very much the same spirit as ourselves in the 13/14 season. The Foxes have also moved to strengthen their back line bringing in trio Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs and Yohan Benalouane. Shinji Okazaki has come in to provide competition to the forwards while N'Gola Kante will add something different to the Midfield. However, Leicester have yet to find an adequate replacement for Esteban Cambiasso. Though plenty of time remains for new boss Claudio Ranieri to address this problem, it is a golden opportunity for Sunderland to exploit such a weakness and boss the Midfield.
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistants: P Kirkup & I Hussin
Fourth Official: M Dean
Leicester City Team News
Apart from long term absentee Matty James who's out until Christmas, Leicester City can boast a fully fit squad for the opening encounter at the King Power Stadium.
Sunderland Team News
Jordi Gomez remains out with a fractured kneecap. Danny Graham could also miss out after picking up a knock. Yann M'Vila has signed in time to play, though a lack of fitness means he'll miss the opener at the King Power. Other than that Sunderland can boast a fully fit squad which could field a possible 6 league debutants when you consider youngsters Duncan Watmore and Tom Beadling. New signing Jeremain Lens is expected to start .
01 Oct 2000: Sunderland 0-0 Leicester City D Premier League
24 Feb 2001: Leicester City 2-0 Sunderland L Premier League
03 Nov 2001: Leicester City 1-0 Sunderland L Premier League
01 Apr 2002: Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City W Premier League
13 Nov 2004: Leicester City 0-1 Sunderland W Championship
23 Apr 2005: Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City W Championship
16 Sep 2006: Sunderland 1-1 Leicester City D Championship
01 Jan 2007: Leicester City 0-2 Sunderland W Championship
22 Nov 2014: Leicester City 0-0 Sunderland D Premier League
16 May 2015: Sunderland 0-0 Leicester City D Premier League
Lincoln City 1-3 Leicester City
Mansfield Town 1-1 Leicester City
Burton Albion 1-2 Leicester City
Rotherham United 1-2 Leicester City
Birmingham City 2-3 Leicester City
Darlington 2-4 Sunderland
Sacramento Republic 1-0 Sunderland
Pachuca 3-1 Sunderland
Toronto FC 1-2 Sunderland
Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Sunderland
Hannover 96 0-1 Sunderland
Last Corresponding Fixture
Premier League, 22nd November 2014
Leicester City 0-0 Sunderland
All eyes will be on new signing Jeremain Lens this Saturday after a couple of head turning performances in pre-season, the Sunderland faithful will be hoping he can hit the ground running both with his creativity, and his goal scoring threat. The dutch international has a knack of getting involved with goals either creative or scoring close to the rate of once every two games throughout his career.