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FAN FOCUS: Bitter And Blue Talk SAFC v Man City

Nayir Chowdhury of fellow SBNation site Bitter and Blue stops by to talk to Rory Fallow about a game that is huge at both ends of the table.

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Second in the league with the possibility of a quadruple - surely everything is pretty upbeat at City?

Surprisingly, things aren't as rosy as it may seem from the outside.

The constant Pep Guardiola rumors have been quite annoying this season and have been very distracting from everything going on on the pitch. There is also a lot of talk surrounding the team's inconsistent performances and the notion that Pellegrini isn't getting enough out of the players. That being said, there is still plenty of reason for optimism as players get healthy (sans KDB).

Kompany, Silva, Aguero, Nasri, Zabaleta, Clichy, and now De Bruyne have all missed large chunks of the season which means older legs like Sagna and Demichelis have been getting overworked. With a full complement of players, a reasonable challenge for the quadruple should still be expected.

January has been a quiet transfer window for you. Is that a good thing because you don't want to disrupt the current squad or could you have done with some new faces?

I've personally never been a big proponent for January changes, and I don't think we need any this season. Health is out biggest concern but the level of talent in the current squad is certainly sufficient for our ambitions.

City also historically don't have much precedent for January action as only Dzeko, Bony, and David Pizzaro have been bought/loaned in recent January windows.

The Pep Guardiola rumours won't go away, what's your thoughts on him potentially being sat in the City dugout come next season?

I think just about all City fans are either happy or just okay with that idea. No one is against it, for sure. When Pellegrini signed on in 2013 it seemed like he was destined for a maximum of 3 years due to his age, the later availability of Pep, and the nurturing of Patrick Vieira.

There are currently a handful of important staff members at The Etihad who Pep has worked with at Barca, and with the full chest of resources at his disposal you'd have to think Pep could achieve great things in England. I also think it'll be his greatest test as a manager, which can perhaps be extra motivation for him.

Where do you see yourselves finishing in the league this season and how do you see yourselves progressing in the cups?

It's so hard to say. I think it will come down to City and Arsenal, and neither team quite looks like they want the title at the moment. I think our experience will tip it in our favor in the end as I don't really have any faith in Arsenal's mental fortitude. Cup-wise, I think we'll get the League Cup over Liverpool, get to at least the semifinal of the FA Cup, and Champions League will probably be dependent on the draw if we get through Kiev (we should).

I would like for us to reach the semifinal of the Champions League as I don't think we have many excuses to not do so.

Is there anyone in our current squad that you're particularly fearful of going into the game?

I'd probably have to say Defoe. His movement and finishing are still very good and we are a bit of a mess at the back at the moment, with the slow Demichelis being forced to start way too often. Whoever starts on the right side for you guys should have a decent day against Clichy as well.

This seems obvious, but, who should Sunderland fans be fearful of going into the game?

Certainly Aguero, which is self explanatory. Aside from him, I'd say Fernandinho and Delph, who, despite not grabbing headlines have played very well. Silva seems obvious but he has been in poor form lately.

Our young striker Kelechi Ihenacho is also someone to watch for if he starts, as he has been on fire lately including a hat trick and assist in our FA Cup match against Villa on Saturday.

Any memories of past visits to Sunderland?

Lots of memories of Sunderland away. Adam Johnson's incredible curling goal late into injury time (when he played for us) is still a great memory. Aguero, Zabaleta, and Milner's goals last year were also memorable. But other than that, it's mostly painful memories at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland enjoyed being our bogey team for years.

I have to say though, my favorite memory of the SOL is a match City didn't even play in. The scenes after the final whistle as the fans, players, and coaches learned of City's escape against QPR in 2012 will forever stay in my memory. I have to applaud the Sunderland fans that day for giving the United fans in attendance the most glorious send-off possible.

Thanks, lads.

How do you seen yourselves lining up for the game?

There are a few positions up  in the air but I would predict Hart, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Sagna, Clichy, Fernandinho, Delph, Toure, Silva, Sterling, and Aguero in a 4-3-3. Sagna played at CB against Villa and it seems Pellegrini might want to do that again. If not, it'll be Demichelis. The only other position up for grabs is probably Delph's. I think he will start but if not, we'll see another attacker in the lineup in the form of either Navas or Iheanacho.

Finally, a score prediction please?

I've got a good feeling going into this one with many players having hit good form recently. I'll go with 3-1 to City.

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