This match preview and results prediction malarkey is really starting to get me down. The last 27 Premier League games have produced a measly four victories – the last three of them against sides reduced to 10 men – and yielded only 25 points from a possible 81. Come on Sunderland; get a grip!
Worse still, it’s not just me being darkly pessimistic. Martin O’Neill is 5/4 with Coral Bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked, following Sunderland’s bore draw against bottom of the table QPR. This result means that Sunderland are now only a solitary point above the relegation zone after 13 games and the carbuncle on my cow-pat of despair is that the Black Cats are 4/1 to be relegated this season.
As the first anniversary of Steve Bruce’s sacking approaches, Sunderland fans would have been hoping for a top ten position, with realistic Europa League aspirations. However, there is a real danger that Sunderland will arrive at this symbolic (or some would say shambolic) 12-month milestone of Martin O’Neill’s appointment actually in a worse position to the one he inherited in December 2011.
Using the power of statistics is easy to see where it’s all gone wrong for the Mackems with only 2.7 shots on target and only 23% of attacking touches on average per game, resulting in one of the most ineffective attacks in the Premier League. Martin O’Neill response to such damning figures was to suggest that his side must keep their heads down and graft every single minute, adding:
“I think we have a fair idea of the strengths and weaknesses of teams, and likewise that information is available to them about us.
“It’s down to ourselves; we must go and compete, which we have been doing, and get that bit of luck which maybe has deserted us. Luck aside, we must go out and play for the full 90 minutes.”
Not exactly Churchillian in his efforts to rally and inspire the Red & White army…
But the Premier League rolls on and next up are Norwich City at Carrow Road. The most famous fixture between these sides was the 1985 League Cup Final where Sunderland gifted them the trophy with an own goal and a missed penalty. Surely it couldn’t get any worse, but it did, with the Black Cats and Canaries both getting relegated a few months’ later – happy days! Norwich where then denied their first foray into Europe with the ban on English clubs after the Heysel Stadium disaster. The whole sorry affair resulted in a special bond being forged between both set of fans in some bizarre masochist mutual admiration society and gave birth to ‘The Friendly Cup.’ Sunderland are the current holders’ following their 3-0 win in February 2012 and on current form it’s the only silverware they are likely to win for the foreseeable future.
Friendship aside – there will be little love lost between ex-Black Cat, Michael Turner, and the Sunderland fans, many of which never really rated him. The Canaries Manager, Chris Hughton is also not on many Mackems Christmas card lists. One of his last acts as Newcastle manager was to inspire their 5-1 demolition of Sunderland – some wounds take a long time to heal. However, there are several crumbs of comfort for travelling fans praying for a positive result. First, you may be amazed to learn that Norwich have scored fewer league goals than Sunderland this season, despite accruing three more points from 14 games and enjoying a seven game unbeaten run. Not only is scoring a problem, but keeping them out has just got harder with England keeper John Ruddy (well third choice anyway) out injured for 3 months.
Sunderland also have their own injury problems with Lee Cattermole limping out of the 4-2 defeat by West Bromwich Albion, and lasting only six minutes at the Stadium of Light against QPR before departing. Titus Bramble is seriously lacking match fitness and a huge question mark remains over John O’Shea. However, one player’s pain is another’s gain with Matt Kilgallon and David Vaughan hoping for a rare run out.
Well, that’s enough of me cheeping about the Canaries and purring on regarding the Cats – its prediction time. So, with both teams finding it hard to score, then they should find it easy to DRAW.
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