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The Big Match Preview: Sunderland vs Fulham; Haway lads, three points at home & lift the curse

Mid-table Fulham are in town hoping to avoid becoming the first side to be beaten by Sunderland since the day Henry Heimlich died (December 17th 2016). Can we manoeuvre a choke-hold over the Cottagers? Ho ho ho.

Sunderland v Fulham - FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Yes, yes, it’s nearly a calendar year since Sunderland last won at home... enough already.

Fulham are consecutive visitor number 22 to arrive on Wearside hoping to snatch a point or three this afternoon.

Chris Coleman takes charge of the Black Cats for the second time at the Stadium of Light, hoping for a better outcome than the last disastrous afternoon we all spent at SR5 when Callum McManaman gifted Reading a win.

The winger is back in contention for a starting berth this afternoon after serving his suspension for being an eejit. Lee Cattermole takes his spot in dunce corner after managing two yellows in the blink of an eye last weekend. If Sunderland can cut out the stupidity, we might have a chance today.

There’s good news in midfield with the return of Didier Ndong, and him being paired with Darron Gibson really ought to be a decent match-up in the middle. The former has legs but can’t pick a pass whilst the latter has to pause for breath often, yet possesses a superb ability to find a teammate. Yin and Yang - Diddy and Gibbo.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship
Haway Gibbo lad, get that contract extension in the bag
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Paddy McNair is still goosed and Lamine Kone will probably never be seen again in a Sunderland shirt. Bryan Oviedo is also out, which may afford young Brendan Galloway a chance to show us what he can do, or Donald Love may feature again with Adam Matthews taking to the left.

Will this be our starting eleven today?
RokerReport.com

Fulham have few fresh injury concerns as they prepare to face some familiar faces in the home dugout though midfielder Kebano, forward Ayite and striker Piazon are all still out. Slavisa Jokanovic has his side firmly in mid-table after winning three of their last four and a win today may rekindle dreams of a play-off spot amongst the West Londoners.

Both Chris Coleman and Kit Symons had considerable history with the Cottagers before they fled to Wales of course. The pair have over 230 appearances in a Fulham shirt between them and both have taken charge at Craven Cottage in their coaching careers.

The two sides have enjoyed lengthy spells facing each other throughout their histories and since the dawn of the new millennium have squared up twenty times in the Premier League. Sunderland only won 5 of those fixtures but we clobbered them last time out in the FA Cup, admittedly at the second attempt following a goalless draw at the SOL.

Sunderland v Fulham - FA Cup Fourth Round
Gus Poyet and Kit Symons exchange air kisses ahead of the FA Cup game in 2015
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

That was in 2015 when Gustavo Poyet was Black Cats boss and Kit Symons was head honcho of Fulham. Ricky Alvarez was on the score sheet for Sunderland that evening in a line-up which reads like a bad dream. Jordi Gomez scored a penalty, Anthony Reveillere was at right-back and Santiago Vergini was busy securing himself a permanent deal whilst on loan. Shudder.

We haven’t faced the Cottagers outside the top flight for nigh-on thirty years however, March 1988 to be precise. That Division Three game was watched by a hardy 11,000 Mackems on a cool Tuesday evening. Gordon Armstrong and Marco Gabbiadini were the goalscorers whilst former Sunderland striker Clive Walker was up front for the vistors. Jimmy Hill was Fulham chairman back then. Nuff said.

Fulham v Sunderland - Premier League
Jimmy Hill’s memorable appearance in front of the Sunderland fans at Craven Cottage in 2008
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Sunderland can leap free of the bottom three with a win today and put a little pressure on our relegation rivals. Next week’s visitors, third-bottom Birmingham are at home to QPR whilst Bolton and Burton take part in a six-pointer at the Macron Stadium.