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Match Preview: Manchester City (H) - Sunderland praying for a Guardiola off day

Another week to reflect on another defeat, and another weekend to provide us with a another distant glimmer of hope: the repetitive life-cycle of a Sunderland fan.

Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Many Mackems spent this week casting their mind’s back to that glorious day at Wembley three years ago, where we faced this weekend’s opponents, Manchester City, in the League Cup Final. Alas, silverware eluded us that day, however, that game and the cup-run itself ultimately acted as a catalyst whereby we were able to overcome another difficult season and claw our way to safety.

David Moyes and co. will be hoping that this weekend’s fixture against the blue half of Manchester will act as another catalyst in the march to survival as a win this weekend could be enormous.

Every point between now and the end of the season is something to be cherished, and could make all the difference in the long-term future of our club. As much as I’ve seen arguments suggesting relegation as a viable option - I’m still not convinced. Financially I’d like to see us restructure with the safety of Premier League television money protecting our club rather than hoping for a small miracle in terms of recruitment and governance in the league below. Because, let’s be honest here, the club couldn’t sort a piss-up in a brewery, will they really be able successfully manager a relegation and fire sale?

And with that rousing thought cemented firmly in our minds we look ahead to the relatively simple task of turning over Manchester City.

Ten games unbeaten since the turn of the year, studded with world-class talent with a globally renowned manager at the helm - just your average weekend for a team in the Premier League. Games like this, while by no means a must win due to the very nature of our opponent, are season defining.

As Guardiola rightly mentioned in his press conference both Tottenham and Liverpool have failed to take three points from the Stadium of Light so far this year, a feat we'll be hoping to replicate.

Yaya Toure is likely to step back into the Manchester City squad, adding his dead-eye passing accuracy and personal strength to an already formidable offence. The sentimental among us will take great heart if Kone manages to send the big man sprawling again - it's not a bad metaphor for exactly the sort of character and determination the lads need to show on the pitch against such a strong adversary.

Ultimately we can only trust that the manager plays the squad to it's greatest strengths and orders a compact, no-nonsense performance and that the players themselves recognise the opportunity they have to hold their home ground and take control of their collective futures with aggression and momentum.

One thing is for sure - Pickford needs to get his rave on.

Team News

With no chance of Kirchoff or Rodwell coming back into the squad we can expect much the same midfield line up as we saw against Everton, and though it's no secret that games like this are the perfect arena for those with heart and bite, we'll likely be relying on experienced heads and composed performances from the younger breed.

Vito Mannone missed the Everton game with illness but returns to the squad and will likely take his place on the bench, with Jordan Pickford quite clearly David Moyes' number one between the sticks. Billy Jones - who came off at Goodison Park with a head injury - will keep his place at right back.

Jason Denayer is ineligible due to the conditions of his loan, but having served a four-match ban we could see the return of Papy Djilobodji to the side to make up part of a back-five.

Predictions

Predicted XI: Pickford, Oviedo, Djilobodji, O'Shea, Kone, Jones, Gibson, Ndong, Larsson, Januzaj, Defoe.

Score Prediction: Ultimately we need a number of factors to come in to play if we are to achieve anything from this game. 1, Manchester City need to have a massive off-day. 2, we need to take the one or two chances that we'll get. 3, we have to be brave, organised and determined. And 4, we have to hope and pray that we can competently defend for ninety minutes. With all of that in mind, I'm going for a 3-0 Manchester City win.