December began with a win. It wasn't a lucky win either. It was a fantastic performance and it has to be the template for the rest of the season. Sunderland are now in form and are playing with a bit of swagger. So who's up next? Oh, away to a team even worse than us, who concede goals for fun!
What could possibly go wrong?
Last week was a big test for David Moyes' Sunderland. They were tasked with proving their recent run of good performances wasn't a fluke, by facing an out of sorts Leicester City. They passed with flying colours, dominating from the first whistle and, save for a late rally from The Foxes, won the game comfortably. If they carry that performance to South Wales, the fans have every right to expect a similar result.
Swansea's defence looks terrible and Victor Anichebe & Jermain Defoe will be looking to exploit that to the hilt. The collosus that is Anichebe against the wee Kyle Naughton - Yes please!
When your back line is low on confidence, the last thing you'll want them to face is an absolute beast who can't be knocked off the ball and a striker who can make a chance out of anything. David Moyes and the coaching staff will have looked Swansea’s defending (or lack there of) in the drubbing handed to them by Tottenham, so I'd expect Sunderland to try and play on the front foot again.
An early goal is crucial. Get one in the opening twenty minutes and Swansea could be on for another collapse. They've conceded nine in their last two, so The Lads need to fly out of the blocks and get the home supporters on edge. Bob Bradley has been all over the place tactically, so having him question his own players/instructions in the opening stages could have the hosts looking like Sunderland did a couple of months ago. Bereft of confidence and ideas.
They will cause us problems too, of course. Gylfi Sigurdsson is always a threat and takes a wicked set piece. The man who almost ended up on Wearside last summer, Leroy Fer, has a pretty decent record against The Black Cats and his pace will be something to keep an eye on. But, the defence dealt with the pace of Jamie Vardy and the trickery of Ryiad Mahrez last Saturday, so there's no reason to think they can't repeat that at The Liberty Stadium.
Even if Swansea go ahead, there's no reason for Sunderland to panic. They just need to keep doing what they've done so well over the past month. Move the ball quickly, get runners up in support, press the opposition as much as possible and make sure they're making their tackles. It's a simple plan but a hard one to defend against when done well. Especially when you have the attacking presence we do.
A win will, at least temporarily, move Sunderland out of the bottom three. We have to take that chance and keep this run going.
Some Interesting Stats
Since Swansea made their top flight return they've played Sunderland ten times. Both sides have won two games each, with the other six ending in draws.
The form table makes much better reading for Sunderland fans than it does for supporters of Swansea. Over the last six games, Sunderland are the 7th best performers in the Premier League, while Swansea are 15th.
The home side boast the Premier League's worst defensive record so far this season, having conceded 31 goals.
A further look at the defence shows that Sunderland have slightly improved over the most recent half of the season. In the last 7 games, they've conceded 11 goals, compared to 13 in the previous 7. There's no such improvement for The Swans though, with 19 of their 31 goals conceded coming in the last 7 matches.
Sunderland have only had three different goal scorers in the Premier League this season (Jermain Defoe, Victor Anichebe & Patrick van Aanholt) and Swansea can only boast double that amount. Leroy Fer, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Borja Baston, Mike van der Hoorn and Wayne Routledge have all found the net for Bob Bradley's side.
There'll be at least one forced change in the Sunderland side, with Duncan Watmore's injury in the victory over Leicester City sidelining him for the remainder of the campaign. It's an interesting debate as to who will come in for Watmore though. Matching lil’ Dunc's energy and work rate will be difficult and while Fabio Borini is back in full training, he may only be fit enough to make the bench. Borini hasn't even played any games for the Under 23's, so it's unlikely he'll be thrust straight back into the starting eleven.
So if David Moyes wants to go with another advanced midfielder, it's a straight shoot out between Adnan Januzaj and Wahbi Khazri. You'd think Januzaj would be the more likely of the pair to be given the nod, since he’s a Moyes signing and his pace and trickery will cause problems for the Swansea defence. It's looking increasingly likely that the manager doesn't fancy Khazri but he will offer the team more in terms of work rate and contributing defensively. There's also secret option number three - play Sebastian Larsson slightly further up the field, but his skills are better suited elsewhere.
The back four should remain unchanged, baring any late/unreported injuries, whilst Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe pick themselves. With Jordan Pickford continuing his fine form, there’s only the centre of midfield where David Moyes has something of a selection headache. Jason Denayer and Steven Pienaar were playing well in the last match, before illness and injury forced both players to be substituted at half time. They were replaced by Jan Kirchhoff and Sebastian Larsson, who themselves gave stellar showings and combined for the opening goal. So who should stay in and who should be rested?
In the case of Pienaar, he may not be 100% and if he sustained some form of concussion, he could be forced to sit this one out. You'd imagine any sickness Denayer had will have passed now, while Larsson and Kirchhoff haven't suffered any setbacks. There may be a rest for Didier Ndong, of course, given he's been chucked right in at the deep end, when you consider he's adapting to a new league and learning a new language.
Who to play in the middle is certainly an issue, but it's a nice problem to have. So please don't vilify me if my predicted line up is wrong.
For the opposition, former Sunderland loanee Ki Sueng-yueng has been ruled out due to an ongoing problem with a broken toe. Federico Fernandez won't be coming in to attempt to shore things up at the back either. A calf problem is still confining him to the sidelines.
Who Swansea will start with is anyone's guess, given Bob Bradley has chopped and changed almost every week. Being their best player, Gylfi Sigurdsson will start and will possibly play as a false 9. This is a match Swansea need to win though, so Bradley could hand Fernando Llorente a start, after benching him against Spurs.
Pickford; Van Aanholt, Kone, Djilobodji, Jones; Kirchhoff, Larsson, Ndong; Januzaj, Anichebe, Defoe.
Swansea 1-3 Sunderland
I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with this confidence.