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Souness explains why Sunderland will be relegated; Striker linked again & 3 more talking points

All the talk today has been about Jermain Defoe and his exploits for England - and rightly so - but here's a selection of what else has been in the news of late and five talking points to ponder.

Southampton v Sunderland - EFL Cup Fourth Round Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

1. Dave's mate Graeme expects Dave to be relegated

Former Newcastle manager Graeme Souness reckons there's still four sides in the mix for relegation this season and in a feature for the Times has picked his trio for the drop.

Souness reckons Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Hull will be the teams to fight it out in the relegation battle - so that'll be the bottom four then. And whilst we ponder how Mystic Souey does it, who does he reckon will be the three then?

Sunderland manager Howard Wilkinson
Souness in 2003 during his time as Blackburn boss. Sunderland were managed by Howard Wilkinson and would later be relegated that season with 19 points
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Liverpool legend and pundit believes Sunderland are already gone, and that Middlesbrough are looking pretty terminal too:

For relegation, I would say Sunderland definitely, Middlesbrough probably and Hull or Swansea.

Having clearly forgotten the £35m David Moyes has spent this season, Souness believes the Black Cats sealed their own fate by not investing sufficiently in the summer or January transfer windows:

Sunderland look gone this time. When David Moyes did not get any money to spend at the start of the season or at Christmas the writing was on the wall for them.

Newcastle United v Sunderland
Souness as Newcastle boss in 2005. Sunderland were relegated that season too. This time with 15 points
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Souness and Moyes go way back of course with both having long Merseyside connections. But the former Liverpool midfielder has some form for relegation predictions. This time last year he correctly forecast Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa would be the three sides doomed to the drop.

2. Frisking the fixtures

You might have seen this sort of stuff in the papers over the weekend - how difficult each side's remaining fixtures are in the relegation battle.

According to most of them, Sunderland have the third easiest set of games to the end of the season amongst the seven clubs in the battle to avoid the drop.

According to the Fixture Difficulty Ratings (FDR) used by the Premier League's Fantasy Football site, Crystal Palace are considered to have the most difficult run-in, followed by Watford, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Sunderland, Swansea and then Hull with the 'easiest'.

Here's the scoring in order by each club's fixture trickiness rating:

Sunderland's 'difficulty rating' is made up of these assessments of their remaining games:

With Sunderland needing a minimum of five victories from the ten games remaining, we're going to have win those green games plus at least two others and pick up some additional points in the red, yellow or orange ones.


3. Jordan Pickford makes 'team of the season so far'

According to stats compiled by TalkSport, Jordan Pickford takes the goalkeeping spot in their 'team of the season so far' and earns this lavish praise:

Pickford has been a bright spark in a miserable Black Cats team this season. The 23-year-old was called into action at the beginning of the campaign after Vito Mannone's injury and has hugely boosted his reputation. It will be difficult for Sunderland to keep hold of the young 'keeper if his form continues.

Sunderland v Hull City - Premier League
Saves like this against Hull have meant Jordan Pickford's 'stats' are awesome this season. Shame about the rest of Sunderland's
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Pickford will be in action again tonight (18.00) as the England Under-21s face Denmark in the Danish city of Randers.


4. Larsson to start tomorrow

According to reports in Sweden, Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson will finally earn his 88th international cap tomorrow.

Portugal host Sweden in the Estádio dos Barreiros in Funchal, Madeira for a friendly fixture. Larsson was an unused substitute on Friday night against Belarus and hasn't taken to the pitch for his country since Euro 2016.

Sweden v Belarus - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Seb Larsson lining up for the national anthems ahead of Sweden's game with Belarus on Friday
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images

5. Championship striker linked

David Moyes may be publicly stating that he's fully focused on the Premier League and hasn't given the prospect of Championship football next season a thought, but that hasn't stopped continued transfer links to second-tier players.

Blackburn Rovers v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Sam Gallagher in action for Blackburn last month
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

This time it's Southampton's Sam Gallagher said to be interesting Moyes again. The Devon-born forward is on loan at Blackburn this season. The links resurfaced in the Sun over the weekend with Steve Bruce also said to be keen on the 21-year-old.

Villa, Cardiff, Sheffield United and Sunderland are all thought to be keeping a watch on Gallagher regularly with the 6ft 4in attacker scoring 11 goals in 39 appearances this season for struggling Rovers.