Well it’s almost time folks - time to say our goodbyes to a league that in all honesty has afforded us but few moments to cherish. The Premier League has been a cruel mistress, and we have done little to light up our stay here. We will likely bow out in the coming weeks, but in the meantime we must stand up and show some fight that could be the spark required if we are to carry some momentum forward into what looks to be a rather turbulent future.
Tonight we make a short trip down the A19 to Middlesbrough. Essentially the game is being labelled as a battle for the wooden spoon, for the victors could potentially take a small step away from the foot of the table. Unfortunately, there is little chance of an escape for either side, but that being said there’s still plenty to play for.
Sunderland looked relatively impressive against a stuttering West Ham side last time out, and Moyes will be eager for his men to replicate the kind of display that secured a point at home. As sardonic as that last statement was, the entire club is desperate for a win to lift the spirits ever so slightly. A win away to local rivals will certainly buoy our hopes of making the last few games a decent spectacle.
As previously mentioned, Sunderland come into the game on the back of a decent result against West Ham. However, one would imagine that Middlesbrough - who have a better defence than 11 of the league’s other teams, and have conceded just one more goal than 3rd place Liverpool - will be far less likely to offer us such fine pickings, unlike Darren Randolph and the rest of the West Ham defence.
Boro’s problems this season have stemmed from a failure to find the back of the net. Álvaro Negredo has managed a paltry 8 goals this season, while Christhian Stuani sits just behind him with a mere 4. In fact, Boro have managed just 23 goals all season - that’s 3 worse than us. As we are well aware, having a decent striker in your ranks can be the difference between relegation and survival, and unfortunately for Middlesbrough they just haven’t been able to score enough goals to find a way to safety.
Much talk now centres around both clubs needing wins to galvanise what will undoubtedly be a difficult transition back into the Championship, though many would argue that Boro are in a far better position to deal with the trauma. A win tonight for either team will be a nice distraction from the impeding doom relegation represents.
I normally spend this small portion of the preview talking about what Sunderland need to do in their approach to the game, but in all honesty it’s a pretty moot point. Essentially, we want to see the team have a go, and provided Wahbi Khazri can find space with the ball at his feet then that will be our best bet at producing a bit of magic.
Aye, that’s literally all I have to say about it, other than I’d like to see Anichebe get in the box a little bit more often.
Away from tactics, Moyes was pretty upbeat in his presser:
There's still a chance (in avoiding relegation) and while there's a chance, we're going to try to take it. If we can take our chance there, then we will have another chance against Bournemouth on Saturday. We're not stupid, but we are in there fighting and we still think we have got a good chance.
Well I never - some fighting spirit?
Unfortunately it looks like young Duncan Watmore might need another operation on his injured knee, which is a real shame, whilst Sebastian Larsson is out due to suspension. Billy Jones could be back in with a chance of filling the right-back slot after a nasty concussion last time out, and other than that there’s really nothing else to report on.
Predicted XI: Pickford, Jones, Denayer, O’Shea, Manquillo, Ndong, Gibson, Anichebe, Khazri, Defoe.
Score Prediction: Boro have really struggled to score, but then again we aren’t very proficient at the back ourselves. They haven’t won this year, and we have only managed to better that by one. I think this has a draw written all over it, and I think it will be a lively 2-2 that does very little for either side.