Sunderland travel to Leicester this Tuesday in a desperate attempt at putting points on the board. We need something to cheer about and we need it quickly. After another week of controversy, this time in the form of slapgate, the club and the fans need some positivity to ease the burden of what has been yet another poor campaign.
I’ve said it for weeks now, but David Moyes genuinely has to abandon all caution in an attempt at generating some momentum that might not necessarily save our Premier League hides, but might ease some of the tension and melancholy currently being experienced by the Sunderland faithful. If we are to go down, we must go down fighting; best case scenario we stay up - worst case scenario we go down with momentum and hope.
Leicester will come into tonight’s game full of hope, especially considering new boss Craig Shakespeare’s historic start to life as full-time boss. An impressive 4 straight wins has seemingly lifted the Foxes out of the relegation battle where they now lie 6 points clear of danger. They will be hoping to make it a fifth straight win at our expense tonight - hopefully the Lads are in the mood to spoil the party.
Little needs to be said about Leicester’s resurgence under Shakespeare, but for Sunderland David Moyes must rally his troops and force the Lads once more unto the breach where they must cry Ha’way for Sunlun! Wearside! and Saint Defoe! Hope is not lost yet, but the light is fast waning, for now is the winter of our discontent made glorious by an assortment of issues both on and off the field. Something needs to change, perhaps tonight’s game might offer a new dawn?
Leicester’s return to form has coincided with a return to their familiar style of counter-attacking football that took the league by storm last year. One small bonus for Moyes and co. comes in the form of the omission of Wes Morgan who still hasn’t overcome a back injury that has kept him out of Leicester’s last two games.
If we are to win tomorrow, Moyes must create chances for Defoe, should he play. We’ve managed to go for almost 9 hours now without a goal, and that simply isn’t good enough. A shake up in terms of personnel and tactics could be just the stimulus needed for a revival in fortunes.
I won’t spend too long reiterating my desire for Khazri to be given a chance from the off, but I would also like to mention that playing both him and Januzaj gives us our best chance at creating opportunities for whoever starts at the head of our attack. Our play needs to be direct and meaningful - Januzaj and Khazri need to find space for themselves in order to create a moment of magic; if we don’t, then I can’t see anything other than a comfortable Leicester win.
Dider Ndong must also come back into the team. Leicester aren’t a particularly physical side and the Gabonese man’s Britishness - or lack thereof - surely won’t be deemed necessary against such a Leicester’s multi-cultural squad. We do need the Gabonese man’s energy in the middle of the park, and Ndong allows us an opportunity to win the ball back and to press the opposition into making mistakes. He simply has to play.
Sunderland may be left without talismanic striker, Jermain Defoe after receiving a knock or two to his knee this past weekend. In his pre-match press conference Moyes noted that Defoe:
didn’t train yesterday and, as we’re doing this press conference, we’re yet to train today. He’s got a knock just below his knee – it was a challenge rather than something to do with his knee – so we need to see how he is today.
Losing the striker would be a huge to blow to our already slim survival chances, and Moyes was also quick to point out that Cattermole would most likely not be risked again either.
The fact of the matter is he hasn’t played any games all season. [We] Want him to be part of the squad because of his enthusiasm and his attitude, and he may well be involved but I don’t think he’s physically in the right condition to play 90 minutes. Maybe he can help us in another period of the game.”
So potentially no Defoe... Step forth Fabio Borini!
Predicted XI: Pickford, Jones, Kone, O’Shea, Denayer, Oviedo, Rodwell, Ndong, Khazri, Januzaj, Borini.
Score Prediction: As already noted, this has to be it. Boom or bust. Hopefully it’s a boom, but if Defoe does miss the game our cause will be made all the more difficult. I’m going for a 1-1 draw; I think the lads wouldn’t mind causing Shakespeare and co. a little distemper’d anger. Hopefully they can give us something to cheer about!