Well, that was certainly fun but now we have got to face up to the stark reality once more that we are still stuck in the rut of a relegation battle. It would be pretty ludicrous of me to suggest this weekend’s game against Hull City is as important our win against the Mags – but it can’t be too far behind in the context of our season.
Our fixture list is not letting up anytime soon to the extent you feel we’re relying on our away games for points which is not ideal. You look to fixtures like this one as a possible win but it is also these fixtures where, as supporters, it is very easy to underestimate the opposition. Hull are unbeaten at home conceding just one goal and are doing rather well sitting pretty in 10th spot. Steve Bruce generally (his last eight months with us excluded) achieves an impressive home record so perhaps it is of no surprise to us, neither is the fact they haven’t been scoring a great deal of goals. So should we expect anything from this fixture at all?
Looking at their last two home games, a 0-0 draw with Aston Villa and 1-0 against West Ham, I think it is pretty evident we can expect to have the lion share of possession. Neither of those teams are renowned for their possession football but both teams easily bossed the match in that respect. It smacks a great deal of Bruce’s time here, as we would struggle in home games where the opposition let us have the ball due to an inability to breakdown defences. Both of these sides also considerably outshot the Tigers with most shots taken inside the penalty area. Indicative of poor finishing, how much of that is down to Hull City’s defence I would not be able to speculate.
Another point potentially in our favour is Hull’s pretty hefty injury list, which includes Sone Aluko who remains doubtful – touted in our interview here as there most dangerous player. They played a gruelling game against Spurs midweek too, getting knocked out of the Captial One Cup in an agonising penalty shoot-out.
All this would seem pretty encouraging from a Sunderland perspective as Gus Poyet continues to mould us into a side comfortable in possession and more than happy to receive the lion share of it. I feel it is a perfect time for the reintroduction of Emanuele Giaccherini. His exclusion in the derby was arguably the most surprising pick and given the result it would be tough to argue it was not the correct decision – but his creativity and guile could be massively important in this game. I think the side should be prepared for bossing the match for most of it and do so by dropping Seb Larsson in favour of Giaccherini whilst going for the 4-3-3 with Steven Fletcher, Jozy Altidore and Fabio ‘what a goal’ Borini up top. Adam Johnson would be the man losing his spot and I wouldn’t back against Poyet doing the same given that he has proved he is more than happy to make tough team selections.
Defensively is a massive worry, I actually feel more confident where we are ‘backs to the wall’ rather than defending high up the pitch. See pretty much every game this season bar Southampton away and the Mags. I’d expect to see the same back four and watch behind my fingers every time we lose possession. I suspect we will line up with an attacking;
Westwood; Bardsley, Dossena, O’Shea, Cuellar, Cattermole, Colback, Giaccherini, Borini, Altidore, Fletcher
We certainly have enough to score against these but there is no way you could confidently back our defence getting a clean sheet. I do expect us to turn up once more though and will stick my neck out again (worked last time!) with a 2-1 away win.
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