This weekend sees two teams with differing fortunes coming head-to-head at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland have struggled over the first few weeks of the season as they adjust to life under David Moyes. Meanwhile, after an initial poor start, Crystal Palace have turned a corner and are coming into this weekend with back-to-back wins. The pressure is on the home side to perform and Moyes needs a positive result soon to prevent questions being asked about his position.
The problem for Moyes is that he was appointed after two failures. Although he has credit in the bank from his time at Everton, he needed a good start to settle in at the Stadium of Light. Admittedly it is a difficult job, given he was only appointed due to Sam Allardyce taking the England job and he wasn’t allowed a full pre-season in charge. Also the investment wasn’t great and the squad is one of the worst in the league. The former Manchester United manager needs to draw upon all his experience to keep Sunderland in the league as he can’t afford another failure.
The opposing manager will feel sympathy with Moyes’ position as he has been under pressure at Palace until the last couple of weeks. Pardew also has experience in the North East and knows how intrusive the media can be in the region. Palace will be targeting three wins in a row and won’t get many better opportunities to do so this season.
Sunderland are in the relegation zone after five matches, with only one point to their name. The club are used to starting slowly and normally have to rely on a post-Christmas revival to stay in the Premier League. Moyes will know that he won’t have the luxury of staying for the entire season unless results improve soon and a win over QPR in the EFL Cup could provide the momentum they need to force a change in fortunes.
Meanwhile, Palace have managed to win their last two league fixtures, scoring six goals in the process. The signing of Christian Benteke was key as he has provided a real focal point, which allows the midfielders to get further up the field. A loss to Southampton in the EFL Cup was a disappointment, but they will take confidence from their league form into the match at the weekend.
Jermain Defoe should be fit to start this weekend after a calf concern. Patrick van Aanholt played during the week and is likely to return to the league side on Saturday. Paddy McNair has put himself in contention to start after two goals in midweek, but is probably going to be on the bench.
Scott Dann is unlikely to feature after picking up a hamstring injury in the EFL Cup. James Tomkins could be fit in time to replace him in the team. One player set to return to the line-up is Yohan Cabaye, who featured in the EFL Cup during the week.
Sunderland Crystal Palace
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Wahbi Khazri and Jermain Defoe are both doubts for this weekend. Victor Anichebe, Fabio Borini, Vito Mannone and Seb Larsson won’t feature due to various injuries. Adnan Januzaj will be available after his suspension during the EFL Cup match.
Palace have a few injury concerns ahead of this match. Scott Dann is probably not going to feature after contracting an injury against Southampton. James Tomkins is a doubt for the match, but is expected to replace Dann at centre back. Both Loic Remy and Pape Souare are on the long term injury list, neither will feature this weekend.
It is difficult to favour Sunderland as they have been in poor form and their performances haven’t deserved much more than a point. However, Crystal Palace remain vulnerable given their 2016 form on the whole and the injury to Scott Dann will be a huge blow. I’m predicting a score draw this weekend, which would be a good result for both managers. It allows Moyes to arrest the slide, while Pardew can extend his unbeaten run in the league.