It seems like all of our midfielders are crocked. We've lost our best centre half and the other is "injured." Seems a bit grim, doesn't it? I'm still pretty excited about the match tomorrow though. Maybe it's early season optimism. Optimism fueled by a decent display against Manchester City, despite our lack of reinforcements. Or it could just be stupidity and naivety, as I remain blissfully ignorant and forgetful to the fact that Sunderland always let you down. It's probably a mixture a both.
There is genuine reason to be optimistic about tomorrow though and that's because of our forwards. As our midfielders drop like flies and our defenders head for the exit door, it seems to be that our only stability is coming up front. Without throwing too much caution to the wind, David Moyes has to rely on his attacking options if we're to get anything from the game. For a newly promoted side, Middlesbrough have some decent attackers themselves and with our reliable defensive partnership now broken up, it's probably fair to say that it'll take at least couple of goals for us to win the game. I'm confident we can do just that though.
Jermain Defoe picked up from where left off by opening his account for the new season against Manchester City - he barely had a kick all game but was still able to react quickly and finish expertly. In a home fixture against a team with less quality at the back, you would like to think that Defoe will be testing Victor Valdes more than he tested Willy Caballero. It won't just be Defoe that Ben Gibson and co. have to think about, of course. Sunday will probably see Adnan Januzaj make his first start and his presence, trickery and pace will not just create chances for himself, but for the whole front line.
Then you've got Fabio "I love big games, me" Borini, Wahbi "let me take corners" Khazri, Duncan "I can run dead fast" Watmore and Lynden "I didn't ask for this hell" Gooch. That actually gives you reason to be cheerful. We could clearly do with another striker before the window closes, because if Defoe gets knackered then we'll be knackered too. In terms of what we have at our disposal for tomorrow though, it's definitely dangerous enough to get us a win and break our August hoodoo.
I don't want this all to sound like I'm being too harsh on our defenders, either. You could argue that John O'Shea has been our Mr Dependable over the last few seasons and helped drag the club out of some terrible situations. At a time like this, with most of our big personalities either gone or injured, you need some leadership. There'll be the usual worries over the club captain's pace but Boro striker Alarva Negrado isn't exactly the quickest himself, despite the obvious goal scoring threat he poses. Making his debut, Papy Djilobodji will need some guidance in his first Premier League game which O'Shea will certainly give him. The pace and reported greater composure in possession from Djilobodji should also offset any of O'Shea's faults.
If our attackers do what they're capable of, any defensive doubts will pale into insignificance. Hopefully my optimism has foundation and isn't just blind faith.