Match Preview: Sunderland vs Tottenham Hotspur
Venue: The Stadium of Light
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Kick-off: 18: 10 IST, 12: 45 GMT, 29th December
After a poor start during which many questions were being asked and critical voices were making themselves heard, Martin O’Neill’s side have recently upped the ante in their performances in the Premier League this season. Having won three out of their last four games, including an impressive 1-0 victory over reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, the home side are sitting pretty on 22 points, placed 13th on the table. Champions League hopefuls Tottenham have also had an impressive run of form and have lost only one of their last seven games, having beaten fellow contenders Liverpool not too long ago. Spurs thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park on Boxing Day, with star winger Gareth Bale bagging a hat-trick.
Sunderland will mainly rely on the threat provided by the wing duo of Adam Johnson and James McClean. Johnson, who scored the winner against former club City, played a pivotal role in that game, as did the Irishman McClean, who’s starting to exhibit the kind of form he displayed last season. Desperate to prove that he isn’t suffering from the ‘second season syndrome’, McClean will be at the heart of O’Neill’s plans as he’ll look to feed summer signing Steven Fletcher and Belgian international Stephanie Sessegnon along with Johnson.
The Black Cats are now seven points clear of the relegation zone, just three weeks after finding themselves in the quagmire of the bottom three. They will look to build on that gap, despite not having beaten Spurs since 2010.
Sunderland will miss defender Danny Rose, who is on-loan from Tottenham, as he cannot feature against his parent club. It’ll be a significant blow for them, as Rose has generally impressed this season. Phil Bardsley will be expected to start in place of Rose. John O’Shea will return to squad, after missing the previous clash due to illness.
Absentees: Danny Rose, Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole
The North Londoners have been on a tear as of late, having picked up 13 points from their last six games, a tally bettered only by leaders Man United. Spurs picked up an impressive 4-0 victory at Villa Park last time out, the only blemish being Moussa Dembele picking up a slight knock. Dembele will likely be rested for the trip to the Stadium of Light and the returning Scott Parker should be handed a start by Villas-Boas.
Youngster Kyle Naughton had an impressive outing in Birmingham and is expected to start at left-back again, despite the potential return of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who’s lacking in match fitness. Naughton isn’t a natural left-back and may struggle against the Black Cats’ wingers. Clint Dempsey and Tom Huddlestone might also be in line for returns, after having missed a few weeks due to injury.
Spurs, being the only team in league to score in every away game this season, will look to the red-hot Bale and Jermain Defoe to lead their line.
Absentees: Younes Kaboul, Dembele (doubtful), Assou-Ekotto (doubtful)
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a stalemate, which affected the Champions League aspirations of Spurs, who ultimately went on to finish behind Arsenal.
EPL – 7/4/12 – Sunderland 0-0 Tottenham
EPL – 18/12/11 – Tottenham 1-0 Sunderland
EPL – 12/2/11 – Sunderland 1-2 Tottenham
EPL – 9/11/10 – Tottenham 1-1 Sunderland
EPL – 3/4/10 – Sunderland 3-1 Tottenham
Form guide (last five EPL games):
Sunderland 1-0 Manchester City
Southampton 0-1 Sunderland
Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland
Sunderland 3-0 Reading
Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea
Aston Villa 0-4 Tottenham
Tottenham 0-0 Stoke City
Tottenham 1-0 Swansea
Everton 2-1 Tottenham
Fulham 0-3 Tottenham
Formation and line-up:
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet, Bardsley, Cuellar, Kigallon, Gardner, McClean, Larsson, Colback, Johnson, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Tottenham (4-4-2): Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghem, Naughton, Lennon, Sandro, Parker, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe
Given the home side’s recent impressive form, they are expected to provide Tottenham a stern challenge. Goals have been scant in the fixture’s history, but expect the attacking firepower of the visitors to hand them a hard fought victory, as Bale and Defoe will be too much to cope with for Sunderland.
Sunderland 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur