A pivotal clash takes places at the Stadium of Light as relegation-threatened Sunderland take on title-chasing Man City. Both teams could be considered a bit too ambitious with their objectives – City are 11 points off runaway leaders Chelsea, whilst the Black Cats are rooted to the foot of the table.
The recent matches played by these two sides have been pretty consistent in regards to their league position. Manchester City have won their previous four Premier League matches (although they haven’t played a domestic game since early last month), with a colossal 4-0 defeat to Everton the only anomaly on an otherwise unblemished record.
Conversely, Sunderland have won once in their last 9 matches – a hefty 4-0 victory against relegation rivals Crystal Palace – and have failed to score in three of their last four league matches. The two teams played a hard fought game for the season’s opener in August, with the scoreline of 2-1 going City’s way, but it’s hard to see a similarly tight game this time around.
Sunderland Manchester City
With both keepers guilty of errors in recent weeks, Caballaro will be Pep Guardiola’s reluctant first choice in goal, whilst Kolarov is set to come back into the starting line-up – although Clichy could start depending on the Serbian’s fitness. The front three is unlikely to change following a stellar display against Huddersfield. Silva is likely to come in for Garcia following a rest in the FA Cup.
Sunderland’s lengthy injury list means they don’t have many credible rotation options, besides several players coming back from injury. Jason Denayer will be ineligible to play for his parent club. Honeyman or Borini could come in as a second striker option, but Januzaj has been in better form and would more likely play as a supporting striker.
Aleksandr Kolarov could well return, as previously mentioned, and would offer a very welcome rotation option – Fernandinho was forced to play left-back in the victory against Monaco. Vincent Kompany could also make a comeback but would be unlikely to break up the Otamendi-Stones partnership. Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus remain long-term absentees.
Sunderland will welcome back Djilobodji from suspension whilst Jan Kirchhoff could return following a long lay off. Billy Jones is a slight doubt so he could be replaced by Javier Manquillo or Steven Pienaar in a more advanced role. Another former Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell’s potential return would be a welcome boost for David Moyes.
Both sides will be invigorated because of their current situations in regards to the title and relegation. With Sunderland struggling to score and hopelessly conceding and City in fine form, the Stadium of Despair could be a more appropriate venue name come full time.
Sunderland 1-4 Manchester City