After a brilliant 3-1 win away against Norwich it’s fair to say that many Sunderland fans will be full of optimism as we travel to Sheffield to face the blue side of the Steel City. Aiden McGeady looks superb, Grabban is clinical in front of goal, and Cattermole is indomitable in the centre of the park - but will Grayson’s men be able to continue their impressive form this evening?
Sheffield Wednesday have struggled so far this campaign. A loss and a draw to Preston and QPR respectively has dented the Owls’ confidence heading into this new campaign, and they will be eager to secure a result this evening in order to kick-start their season and relieve the growing pressure (it’s a bit early, I know!) on manager Carlos Carvalhal.
As Simon Grayson noted in his pre-match press conference:
They (Sheffield Wednesday) have been in the upper reaches of the Championship for the last few years. They missed out on a couple of occasions so they are a tough team.
They haven’t started the season as I’m sure they would’ve like to but it is another tough Championship game. They have got some strikers who can cause problems for any team.
We will go there in good confidence and try to execute whatever game plan we put out to try and get three more points.
Sheffield employ several former Sunderland players, with Keiren Westwood, Ross Wallace, and Steven Fletcher all plying their trade in South Yorkshire, and they will be keen to get one over their old club.
That being said, it’s been a tough few months for Wednesday fans. After being knocked out of the play-offs last campaign only one signing has been made so far this summer in the form of George Boyd from Burnley. Furthermore, a scrap on the training pitch was recently reported, with striker Fernando Forestieri excluded from his side’s last game because of it, whilst several other players are to miss the game due to injury.
Despite their misfortunes, however, Wednesday remain a very good side with some real quality in their ranks, and Sunderland must be on their best form if they are to leave Yorkshire with maximum points in hand. Grayson has struggled at Hillsborough in recent years, yet he too will be eager to keep this impressive run going with his new side as he looks to engineer a successful campaign.
Sunderland must continue to play with aggression and passion if they are to gain a positive result this evening. Wednesday are a good outfit and play some nice football at times, but as with the Norwich win, Sunderland must simply want the game more than their opposition.
We knew how they (Norwich) were going to play and the players executed the game plan we asked them to do and it worked a treat. They had 70% possession, we knew it would be high, but ultimately, it’s the result that matters.
Grayson will have analyzed the Wednesday games so far this season and will again have prepared his men for battle. If Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong can upset the depleted Wednesday midfield, who are likely missing tenacious midfielder Sam Hutchinson through injury, the likes of Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban will have plenty of opportunity to impress.
Fans were curious to see how Grayson would play against Norwich last weekend, and despite not having much of the ball, were impressed with the bold decision to play with a 4-4-2 away from home.
In fact the same formation could be crucial to any success tonight as Glen Loovens - Sheffield’s sturdy centre-back - also looks to be unavailable due to injury. That means Sheffield will have to shuffle someone (likely Morgan Fox) into the middle to accompany Tom Lees. If Vaughan and Grabban use their physicality and pace to good effect, then Sheffield’s defence could well struggle, especially without the commanding presence of Loovens.
Bryan Oviedo and Jack Rodwell are back in full training, unlike Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore, yet still likely won’t feature. Josh Maja has seen a specialist about his knee injury which hasn’t healed as well as first hoped, but other than that Sunderland have a strong selection of players to choose from - as noted by Simon Grayson in his presser:
We have got some talented players here even though we haven’t spent a lot of money. They are all buying into the ideas and there is a good team spirit and a feel good factor. We have started the season in a strong manner and we have got to continue the work off the pitch as well as on it.
SAFC’s Starting XI: Steele, Jones, Browning, Kone, Galloway, Ndong, Cattermole, McGeady, Honeyman, Grabban, Vaughan.
Score: I think Grayson will stick with the side that secured the win away to Norwich. We do need to be careful not to become too predictable as the season progeesses, and I think asking Honeyman to play slightly more infield could cause Sheff Wed some problems - especially without Sam Hutchison. If Grabban and Vaughan continue their good form I can’t see us losing if I’m honest. I’m going for a 2-0 win with Vaughan and Grabban taking a goal apiece.