Alexander Kolarov - The key will be keeping him quiet, and our right hand side will need to be at their best.
Well well well, it's time to preview Sunday's game against Manchester City.
Following Tuesday night's England v Ghana game, it doesn't actually feel like that long since a game, and luckily every Sunderland player whilst away on duty came back injury free, and most of them had a very good week.
Going to Eastlands this weekend will be no easy task though. High-flying, Champions League chasing Manchester City against Sunderland in free fall. There can only be one outcome no?...SAFC Team News
The Liverpool disaster was a long time ago now, and lets leave it just there in the memories of players, fans and management. Everyone's had a good break - be it banging in the goals like Asamoah Gyan, making debuts like Simon Mignolet or Danny Welbeck, or even some of the squad members not involved in the break will have enjoyed an extended break to recover from any niggles.
And we'll start right off in the goalkeeping position. Simon Mignolet, fresh from making his Belgium debut, will continue between the sticks, as Craig Gordon is nowhere near fit enough to challenge. Its a huge risk from Bruce to continually put Gordon on the bench with his injury and good lord I hope Craig isn't required this week.
The defensive situation is nowhere near as clean cut, although one thing we do know for sure is that Nedum Onuoha is ineligible to play against his parent club this weekend. It looks like Ahmed Elmohamady will take the right-back position in his absence. Phil Bardsley was injured against Liverpool, and while the club played down the recent injuries, he was the only to withdraw from international duty, and receive treatment. Which of course also means a change at left-back, and Anton Ferdinand looks likely to come in. In the central positions John Mensah came through two lots of 90 minutes over the break, and will partner Titus Bramble.
Into midfield now, where the questions begin. To play 5 or 4? I think it will be somewhere in between. Lee Cattermole has returned from injury, and will captain the side once again, and I can see him being partnered in the middle by Jordan Henderson. I can't imagine Steve Bruce will bow to the pressure from fans to move Henderson wide, nor bow to pressure from Bolo Zenden to give him a game.
Elsewhere in midfield I can see Bruce making a change. He must have been impressed with Sulley Muntari over the break, who played a more advanced role for Ghana. Allowing him to get a goal away at Congo, and have a fine performance at Wembley. Look for him to be on the left hand side of the midfield, with Stephane Sessegnon in behind Asamoah Gyan in attack, and Danny Welbeck starting the game coming from a wide right position.
I don't think Bruce will have the balls to go 4-4-2 from the off, but this line-up would give us the opition to do so if needed. Also plenty of pace and movement to get at Manchester City.
Obviously, the whole system comes crashing down if midfielders don't do their best to get beyond Asamoah Gyan, but hopefully by this point of the season they've learned that it's something they should be doing.
Bruce's Probable Team
Mignolet; Elmohamady, Bramble, Mensah, Ferdinand; Cattermole, Henderson, Muntari, Sessegnon, Welbeck; Gyan
Mignolet; Elmohamady, Bramble, Mensah, Ferdinand; Cattermole, Zenden, Henderson, Sessegnon, Muntari; Gyan
From the Manchester City side...
Manchester City need a win, and a good performance to put things back on track. Are they even off track? Well, not really but defeat against Dynamo Kiev & Chelsea, as well as only very narrow wins over Reading & Wigan which you'd say were not befitting of a squad totalling over £800m in transfer fees. Which obviously means they've plenty of talented players we should be worrying about.
The keys for me though, will be doing our utmost to stop Alexander Kolarov, Yaya Toure & Edin Dzeko.
Kolarov will be marauding down the left, which is my biggest concern whomever he comes up against, be it Elmo & Sessegnon or even Ferdinand. He must be stopped.
Toure is a similar player. Often misviewed as a holding midfielder, he gets forward very well, and if I were Bruce I'd be getting Cattermole to stick to him like glue for the entire match, or at least until Catts gets inevitably sent off.
And lastly, Edin Dzeko. I'm a big fan of his, and I'm worried that he hasn't scored for a while.... and you know what that means when Sunderland come to town. Mensah & Co will have their work cut out on Sunday afternoon. Lets hope he has another off-day.
With out wanting to sound too cliched, I genuinely think this could go either way. I think we've the ability to cause an upset, and also the ability to get battered. Hence my prediciton lies somewhere in between. I'm plumping for 1-1. Asamoah Gyan to get amongst the goals early on, Dzeko to equalize soon after, and backs to the walls from then on.
Ha'way the lads!
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