Who would have thought that after the abject humiliation found at Turf Moor the lads would be able to provide such a resolute and vital performance at home to Liverpool? Credit where credit is due - David Moyes got his tactics and team selection spot on which enabled the team to take a valuable point from an impressive Liverpool side.
This weekend sees the third round proper of the FA Cup make its annual appearance as Burnley make their way to the North East hoping to emulate their recent winning performance from two weeks ago. One would imagine that Sean Dyche will be looking at his side’s Premier League position, and think that perhaps Burnley could in fact put extra time and effort into a cup competition this season. An 8 point buffer from the relegation zone certainly affords breathing room, especially when compared to our perilous position.
Sunderland, however, will more than likely be using the fixture as an opportunity for several fringe players to continue to regain fitness/stake a claim for a starting berth in the AFCON/injury ravaged Sunderland line-up. Despite Moyes’ assertions that Sunderland will be taking the FA Cup with the utmost of seriousness, Premier League safety is the most pressing issue circling our club right now, and David Moyes could well look to keep key players fresh. The FA Cup allows Moyes a chance to assess players that he maybe wouldn’t risk in a Premier League fixture. More on that to follow.
Sunderland, and Jermain Defoe in particular, were flavor of the week for most sports media outlets, as speculation swirled about the future of the prolific striker. David Moyes, however, was quick to refute claims that Defoe would leave the club this window in his pre-match press conference:
Jermain will be involved in some way tomorrow. West Ham made a bid and we rejected it. We have said Jermain is not for sale and he is not for sale. This is a great club. We want to do well and we want to look at who we can bring in.
Hopefully those comments end the gossip and allow the club to press on with more important dealings this January. Lingering nightmares of the Darren Bent sale will be a painful reminder to many Sunderland fans that not all heroes are faithful, so Moyes’ comments will be much appreciated.
Sunderland will of course be looking to use the upcoming Burnley game as a platform by which to gain further momentum after the spirited draw with Liverpool last weekend. But should David Moyes risk further key players to injury, or should he experiment with his line-up in an attempt at finding players capable supplementing his threadbare squad?
Moyes himself alluded to the notion that he might be tempted to test several younger players this weekend when asked about his potential line-up in the pre-match presser.
I want the young academy players training with us as much as possible. We are trying to build a younger team and a younger squad. They might be involved in some way tomorrow.
Just which players will be included in the squad this weekend is an enigma that only David Moyes can answer; however the list can be narrowed down, one would assume, due to recent squad inclusions.
Mika and Javier Manquillo are all names that could easily be included in defensive areas, but the absence of Lamine Kone due to injury and the AFCON, has left Moyes to with very few central defenders to choose from. John O’Shea has been asked to play multiple games, and Moyes will be keen to find someone capable of deputizing due to O’Shea’s advancing years. Young Michael Ledger impressed in pre-season and could potentially be involved tomorrow at some point in an effort to preserve either Papy Djilibodji, or John O’Shea. Tommy Robson could also be given an opportunity at full-back should Moyes decide to rest legs.
In midfield, Moyes has several youngsters who will be desperate to prove their worth. Elliot Embleton is noted as a technically gifted midfielder who can play a number of roles in the centre of the park; with a keen eye for goal and bags of potential Moyes might be willing to let the youngster prove his worth.
Likewise, George Honeyman and Ethan Robson will also be itching to get some minutes under their belts. Although as mentioned in several Roker Report NewsWipe articles, Honeyman could soon be moving on to pastures new in the search for first team football. Ethan Robson is another midfielder who has also flirted with the Sunderland bench. Tall, strong and a good passer of the ball, Robson could potentially find some game time due to injuries/international duty.
Finally Joel Asoro and Josh Maja are forward options who might be given the opportunity to impress this Saturday; however, one would assume that Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj will be preferred in order to afford said players with more game time, while Jermain Defoe could well play as a signal of Moyes’ intent to keep the forward in the North East. A second half cameo might be available for the youngsters, though, and if the opportunity is presented to either player they must grab the opportunity with both hands and impress Moyes and co.
As already mentioned, Sunderland’s injury woes haven’t improved, though Jack Rodwell’s return was a surprisingly impressive relief. Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong are all away on international duty whilst Victor Anichebe is still sidelined. Jason Denayer has overcome injury, but whether he will be risked in a cup competition is up for debate. There is no update on other long-term injuries.
Burnley have few further injury concerns, though the re-signing of Joey Barton is an intriguing move. Will he make the squad for this weekend’s game? If so, I’d imagine the Sunderland fans will give him a welcome most becoming.
Predicted XI: Mika, PVA, Djilibodji, O’Shea, Love, Denayer, Larsson, Rodwell, Borini, Defoe, Januzaj.
Score Prediction: Although this is an opportunity to test some younger players, I’d expect David Moyes to hold off on throwing his youth players into the emotional cauldron that is the Stadium of Light in an effort at creating team cohesion among the senior ranks. That plan could well pay off, and I’d expect the squad to seek revenge for what happened at Turf Moor; I’m going for a 2-0 Sunderland win.