Sunderland face Leeds this afternoon at the Stadium of Light in a 17:30 kick-off. The contest marks the first of three games in the next seven days with the visit of Leeds, before trips to Carlisle and Barnsley next week.
Sunderland will be eager to start this congested week with a victory against Thomas Christiansen’s Leeds United - Simon Grayson’s former employers. The two sides have replicated one another’s early season league form with two draws and one win from their opening fixtures.
Grayson spoke about the game being an important one for both him, his squad and the fans:
These are the games the players want to be involved in and look forward to because it’ll be a great atmosphere and Leeds have a big following.
It’ll be a tough game because they’ve started the season well and they’re also unbeaten, so we know what to expect and I watched them on Tuesday night.
It’s a game we want to enjoy, thrive in and want to keep our run going.
A win tomorrow keeps our unbeaten start to the season and helps build yet more momentum - something the Lads will need ahead of such a busy week. Fans are excited, and the stage is set - will Sunderland be able to bag a win in front of home support?
Leeds have faced yet another period of upheaval this summer with new ownership and a new manager coming to the club. However, much like Sunderland’s summer of change, Leeds have yet to suffer any form of adverse reaction.
In fact as noted by wide man, Kemar Roofe, Christiansen might have added personnel to his squad, but he hasn’t tinkered too much with the tactical foundations laid by predecessor, Gary Monk:
There’s new players. But there hasn’t been a massive change. We’re still playing football, rather than going long. Hopefully we can show what we can do during the season and you guys watching can make your own decisions.
And it would seem Roofe is right. Leeds have averaged almost 52% possession in their games so far this season, and have managed 11 shots per game - they will be difficult opposition, and we will need to be on the top of our game if we are to come away with 3 points. Grayson will have prepped his men, and we must look to exploit Leeds’ defensive frailties due to a plethora of injuries facing the Yorkshire side.
Hopefully Sunderland’s players feel fresh after their midweek fixture where they looked visibly fatigued in the final stages of that clash. Their high octane pressing style will need to be on point if they are to break down a handy Leeds side. Don’t be surprised to see Joel Asoro given some time late in the game either - his pace and direct play could hurt a Leeds side with limited defensive options, especially in the latter stages of the game.
Sunderland on the other hand will be spurred on by home support, and Simon Grayson knows just how important that can be if we are to have a successful season:
It’s an unbelievable atmosphere when it gets going and the Derby game highlighted that, because I thought the supporters were excellent and hopefully come Saturday – and throughout the season – they come in their numbers and make it a difficult place for the opposition to come.
If you have a full stadium it can be an intimidating atmosphere and it can really inspire the players.
It’s where you want to win most of your matches because you’ve got the nucleus of your supporters there and you want them to buy into your ideas, so we want to get the numbers back, get the team playing well and let the supporters see the team playing with the pride and passion this club deserves.
Indeed the SoL is a fantastic place when the football is going well, and should the Lads start well on Saturday, Leeds will face an uphill struggle. It’s testament to Grayson’s solid start to life as Sunderland manager that fans are excited to go to matches once more - especially after last season’s abject humiliations - and tomorrow will be no exception.
You’d imagine Grayson will opt for the same starting XI that faced Sheffield Wednesday last Wednesday, and it is of course their recent displays that have fans excited at the season ahead. Passion, determination and moments of pure quality have left fans optimistic - tomorrow will further test our side’s Championship credentials.
There’s little to report in the way of fresh injury concerns with Maja, Watmore and McNair all still out injured. Rodwell and Oviedo are back training, but it’s not clear whether they’ll be included in today’s squad.
Sun reporter Alan Nixon this morning confirmed that Leeds’ star striker Chris Wood is close to a move to Burnley, and as such has been removed from their matchday squad for this evening’s game - advantage Sunderland?
SAFC’s Starting XI: Steele, Jones, Browning, Kone, Galloway, Ndong, Cattermole, Honeyman, McGeady, Grabban, Vaughan.
Score: I think Grayson will stick to his guns today before tinkering with line-ups and tactics during the week against Carlisle, so the side will be a strong one that we know can produce the goods. I think a solid 1-0 win would be a great result and I think Vaughan will bag the vital goal. Ha’Way!