Sunderland as a club have been standing on the precipice, gazing into the abyss for so long now falling no longer appears a possibility. For the Black Cats a depressing formula seems to have taken root at the Stadium of Light. A trend in which an insipid, lacklustre season is only saved by the ineptitude of other clubs and a flurry of late season wins. A trend the want away Sunderland board seem unable to buck. Dick Advocaat’s men started the year in the worst possible fashion mauled 4 going on 40-2 to a rampant Leicester side. The impression this term is that points will be rarer than a natural hair atop the Dutchman’s scalp.
Opponents Norwich have more reasons to be cheerful despite loosing by the same margin last weekend to Crystal Palace. Promising boss Alex Neil has a vibrant squad bursting with belief both in themselves and their manager. New signings Mulumbu and Dorrans offer physicality and experience, whilst Robbie Brady can apply some much needed guile down the left hand side. The area in which the Canaries will most struggle is in getting themselves on the score sheet. A potential capture of Italian international Mattia Destro looks ideal however in his absence the burden will likely fall on the broad shoulders of Cameron Jerome. Who himself was unlucky not to get himself amongst the goals after a woeful refereeing decision last week. If Jerome can replicate last seasons Championship form then goals should be in steady supply.
Advocaat has done his best to revitalise a squad for whom mediocrity has become acceptable. Lens, Coates and Kaboul have all been recruited along with mad man M’vila on a seasons loan. Fresh from his midweek head but the talented yet temperamental Frenchman may make an appearance this weekend.
The former Holland boss will most likely employ a more expansive 4-4-2 formation at home to the newly promoted side. A strong if immobile defence of Van Aanholt, O’shea, Kaboul and Jones may be expected to protect the Romanian Giant, Pantilimon. A central midfield partnership of Cattermole and Larsson offers work ethic and fine set piece delivery. Without the injured Johnson, quality wide play will be expected from Lens and Italian energy ball Giaccherini and fresh from both scoring on the opening weekend the reliable duo of Fletcher and Defoe should combine up front.
Of course it is early in the season and Sunderland have a string of winnable games in succession yet the inescapable impression is that if the Mackems don’t improve radically on Saturday and show glimpse of promise then perhaps another miraculous escape will prove to be beyond them.
Sunderland (from): Mannone, Pantilimon, Brown, Coates, Jones, Kaboul, Matthews, O’Shea, Van Aanholt, Bridcutt, Buckley, Cattermole, Giaccherini, Gomez, Larsson, M’Vila, Rodwell, Defoe, Fletcher, Graham, Lens.