Sunderland will square up against Premier League opposition as they travel to Burnley in the League Cup second round. Aside from drubbing the under-21 teams of a number of top flight clubs, the Lads have yet to face a Premier League side since their demotion to the third tier.
Once considered inferior to Sunderland, the Clarets have firmly established themselves as a Premier League club. Under the guidance of gravel-in-a-blender-voiced Sean Dyche, a former Sunderland managerial target, and the mercurial left boot of Ashley Barnes, the Lancashire side consistently prove pundits wrong by avoiding relegation.
With Dyche and Jack Ross knowing league form is the main priority, both sides are expected to make a number of changes, however it will be a fascinating watch to see how Sunderland fair against Premier League opponents.
Max Power Says...
Midfielder Max Power was on press conference duties on Monday and said:
We went into Saturday believing we were going to win. We’re in a confident way at the minute and we want that to continue.
Competition for places is healthy. All the Lads are striving to do well and if we can all keep pushing each other then we will have a successful season.
Everyone is pulling in the right direction. We’ve won our last four and there’s an excitement leading up to games. We’re all ready for Burnley and can’t wait to go again.
Burnley will give us a good test. They are a Premier League club but we’re in a good way at the minute. We want to progress and we want to keep winning games. It’s a great tie for us.
New signing Joel Lynch is not expected to be among the squad heading to Turf Moor on Wednesday. The former Queens Park Rangers defender admitted in his first interview on the club’s website that he was a couple of weeks behind in terms of fitness, so the game at Burnley may come a little early.
Jack Ross is expected a raft of changes especially with the quick turnaround for the trip to Peterborough United on Saturday. It will certainly mean a return in goal for Lee Burge while there could be places for the likes of Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin, Duncan Watmore, George Dobson and Dylan McGeouch.
The game may also be an opportunity for youngsters Elliot Embleton and Denver Hume to get more game time. Striker Marc McNulty is still unavailable due to a hamstring problem.
View from the opposition
For a time Sunderland were the Premier League’s unflushable turd. No matter what happened, no matter how close relegation was, the Lads would find some way to get out of it. While Burnley don’t have a resume of great escapes, they fall into the bracket alongside Bournemouth where you check the table and think “oh yeah, they’re still in the Premier League”.
After hitting the heights of seventh in 2017/18, they have retreated to the mean and settling into their rightful place in lower mid-table. They’ve started the new campaign in positive fashion and currently find themselves fifth after collecting four points from their opening three games.
Much of this success has been down to the bustling prowess of one-time Austrian under-20 forward Ashley Barnes, who has started the season in rip-roaring fashion. After a brace against Southampton on the opening day, he has added goals against Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers to confirm himself as the darling of Burnley, if there was ever such a thing.
Manager Sean Dyche was left fuming, although he is almost permanently fuming, after his side let slip a win against Wolves after giving away a 97th minute penalty. He will be hoping that they take their revenge out on a lowly third tier team from the north-east to cheer them up.
New signing Danny Drinkwater is expected to make his debut on Wednesday while Jeff Hendrick and Jay Rodriguez may also make the starting XI. With goalkeeper Nick Pope rested, Dyche must decide whether Joe Hart or Bailey Peacock-Farrell will start between the sticks. Johann Gudmundsson misses out due to a calf injury.
“I’ve said I think it’s the most balanced and competitive group I’ve had here,”
“You could argue about other groups because I feel I’ve had some good ones here.
“But when I look at the rounded side of the squad – and the fact we have minimal injuries as well at the moment – I think they are players that are capable.
“So I will certainly be changing the side. There’s no reason not to when you think of the quality of the players that will come into the side.
“But there’s no other thought than winning the game – absolutely none.
“We want to win as many as we can. We know the feeling from last year when it didn’t go our way and that’s not a good feeling that you want.”
Venue: Turf Moor, Burnley
Referee: Darren England
Last season position: 15th (Premier League)
Last 5 results:
(L1) AFC Wimbledon (H) 3-1
(L1) Rochdale (A)
(L1) Portsmouth (H) 2-1
(LC) Accrington Stanley (A) 3-1
(L1) Ipswich Town (A) 1-1
(PL) Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) 1-1
(PL) Arsenal (A) 1-2
(PL) Southampton (H) 3-0
(FR) Parma (H) 2-0
(FR) Nice (H) 6-1
The Lads at Burnley
17 Jan 2017 (FAC) Burnley 2-0 Sunderland
31 Dec 2016 (PL) Burnley 4-1 Sunderland (Defoe)
20 Sep 2014 (PL) Burnley 0-0 Sunderland
19 Sep 2009 (PL) Burnley 3-1 Sunderland (Bent)
16 Dec 2006 (CH) Burnley 2-2 Sunderland (Leadbitter, Connolly)
Sunderland in the League Cup 2nd Round
2017/18 Carlisle United 1-2 Sunderland (Love, Gooch)
2016/17 Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Sunderland (McNair 2)
2015/16 Sunderland 6-3 Exeter City (Rodwell 2, Defoe 3, Watmore)
2014/15 Birmingham City 0-3 Sunderland (Gomez, Johnson, Wickham)
2013/14 Sunderland 4-2 MK Dons (Altidore, Wickham 2, Johnson)
Top goalscorers (in all competitions)
4 - Ashley Barnes
1 - Johann Gudmundsson
Last Time We Met
In another of David Moyes’s managerial masterclasses Sunderland faced Burnley in a FA Cup third round replay after heroically securing a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light. On an excruciating cold night in Burnley (are there any other kind?) in early 2017, the Lads put in a trademark insipid display and were easily swatted aside by half time.
Sam Vokes gave the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time before Sunderland spent the second period desperately trying to give Burnley another goal. Finally, the Clarets duly obliged with Andre Gray putting them out of their misery with seven minutes to go.
Of that most hated of all squads, only Elliot Embleton and Ethan Robson remain while one of the starting defenders now plays Champions League football; it’s a funny old world.