Results on Saturday have conspired to leave The Lads in 14th place just ahead of our Monday night opponents Blackburn on goal difference, both with with 8 points. This was partly due to Newcastle forcing a late comeback in a 2-2 draw with Wigan, so Newcastle are currently one point ahead of us, having played one game more.
I was not surprised to see them struggle against an improving Wigan who have made great progress after their nightmare start to the season, but still carry a minus 9 goal difference; overall the point Sunderland gained there with 10 men on our last visit to Lancashire now looks like a decent outcome.
The big question is whether Darren Bent will recover from a groin strain before Monday’s contest. There must be a question mark over England’s training methods with so many players withdrawing from the squads through injury. Sunderland fans will be reassured by the presence of Asamoah Gyan waiting in the wings. He is now is getting stronger and more match-fit, in the context of the demands of the Premiership, according to manager Steve Bruce.
Sunderland’s injury list does not look too bad: Richardson, Meyler and Campbell, and given the size of the squad, this is manageable. There is always a physical challenge when playing Allardyce’s teams, but Sunderland have one of the best defences in the league, and there is excellent cover in the form of John Mensah.
Currently, the Black Cats are on good form, having played against Man. City, Man. Utd., Arsenal and Liverpool without experiencing defeat, and even our one loss this season, 1-0 at West Brom., does not look so bad now in the context of the Baggies's current 6th spot in the Premiership. So Sunderland fans will be looking for an improvement over last year’s 2-2 draw, which came at a time when the team was not playing well at all. This is a chance to improve our away record. Whatever the result, this will be a test of Sunderland’s resilience in what may be a physical game, and will show if the team are up for vital bread and butter games such as this which need to be won.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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