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Match Preview: Can We Make It Five From Five?

Today's opponents Montpellier HSC are probably Sunderland's strongest test yet in pre-season, and with another week until we face off against Borussia Dortmund in Austria it is important that the likes of Kirchhoff, O'Shea and Larsson get some vital game time under their belts.

Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Kick Off: 17:00 GMT
Venue: Stade Jacques Forestier, Aix-les-Bains
Watch: SAFC.com/live - Commentary from Simon Crabtree 
Last Season: N/A

Having won four games on the bounce this pre-season it is the 2012 French League champions Montpellier HSC that stand in the way of David Moyes' men in France today.

Montpellier won Ligue 1 four years ago in a similar fashion to the way that Leicester did last season in England, and following that they had the majority of their best players plucked from them by bigger clubs  - Olivier Giroud probably the most notable.

The side we play today isn't quite the same as the one that pipped PSG to first position a short time ago but, still, they are strong and though they were well beaten by Toulouse on Wednesday they are expected to field a strong side this evening at the Stade Jacques Forestier.

Our squad is thin and seems to be getting weaker by the day, worrying when you consider that the season opener at Manchester City is only two weeks away. Jermain Defoe and Patrick Van Aanholt both picked up injuries over the course of our trip down by Lake Geneva and, with only youth players Tom Robson and Joel Asoro available to back them up, it does concern me slightly.

News emerged this morning that Sunderland may well wait until Yann M'Vila is out of contract before signing him, and having seen Sunderland's midfield options this pre-season this annoys me slightly. We have nobody like Yann M'Vila, and the void he fills is a pretty important one - especially if we are going to kick on next season.

Further injuries to key players may well force the club's hand in the transfer market. As much as I want to see us give our young players a chance at the highest level, we still lack competition for places and quality in every position.

Still, today should be a good test of where we are at fitness wise.

Team News

Starting XI: Mannone, T Robson, Kaboul, Kone, Jones; Cattermole, Kirchhoff; Lens, Khazri, Borini; Watmore.

Subs: Pickford, O'Shea, Larsson, E Robson, Honeyman, Gooch, J Robson, Asoro, Stryjek, Ledger, Greenwood, N'Zogbia.

Gav's Prediction

I'm going to predict that today's game will be close one - I think a draw is likely.

We're still easing players back in and nursing an injury or two, and though Montpellier aren't on the same level as next week's opponents Borussia Dortmund they are very capable and should give us a good game. I'm going for 1-1 with our goal coming from a corner.