Can Sunderland make it three league wins in a row by beating League Cup finalists Swansea at the Stadium of Light? Join us as we preview all the action...
Sunderland Team News
Lee Cattermole, Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar are all unlikely to feature against Swansea City. Without completely dismissing the possibility of returns for the trio, O'Neill did suggest that the game had probably arrived too soon for them to make their comebacks.
Aside from long term absentee, Wes Brown, the only other fitness issue surrounds Senegalese central defender Kader Mangane. It appears that the loanee is two or three weeks away from reaching full match fitness.
Given the recent run of good results in the league, it wouldn't be a surprise to see an unchanged starting XI from the one that faced Wigan, with one or two of those lacking match fitness making the bench.
Swansea City Team News
Neil Taylor and Kemi Agustien will be missing for Swansea. Taylor fractured his ankle in the reverse fixture and is out for the season, while Agustien will be missing throughout February.
Ki Sung-Yueng picked up a knock during his side's 0-0 draw with Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, but completed the 90 minutes and should be available. Like Sunderland, Swansea weren't in action this weekend having been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round. Vorm should return in goal for an otherwise unchanged side.
Sunderland's interest in Swansea striker Danny Graham has been widely reported in recent weeks, and it will be interesting to see if he plays a part against his prospective employers.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Colback; N'Diaye, Vaughan, Larsson; Johnson, Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Swansea City: Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, Ki, De Guzman; Hernandez, Michu, Routledge
Key Matchup: Simon Mignolet Vs Michu
Michu is likely to be employed as the lone striker for Swansea, but is also dangerous when utilised at the apex of a three man midfield. Whichever position he lines up in, it's safe bet that he will have chances. He isn't the league's fourth top scorer by chance.
Luckily for Sunderland, Simon Mignolet has been amongst the top goalkeepers in the league this season and he will have to be at his very best to keep Michu at bay. If he keeps Michu out then there's a good chance he will keep a clean sheet as the Spaniard is responsible for 38% of Swansea's league goals this season. Despite conceding two against Wigan in his last appearance, Mignolet made some fine saves. He has 8 clean sheets in 23 league appearances this season, saving 88 shots.
A repeat of the kind of form that has seen him shut out the likes of Manchester City at the Stadium of Light would provide Sunderland with the perfect base to build a victory on.
Recent Form: WDLWD
Win: Chelsea 0-2 Swansea (Michu 39, Graham 90)
Draw: Everton 0-0 Swansea
Loss: Arsenal 1-0 Swansea (Wilshere 86)
Win: Swansea 3-1 Stoke (Davies 49, De Guzman 57, 80; Owen 90)
Draw: Chelsea 0-0 Swansea
Last Time Around: Sunderland 2-0 Swansea, 21/01/12
Sunderland's 2-0 home win over Swansea last season was a comfortable one. Despite having around two thirds of the possession, the Welsh side offered very little in the way of clear cut chances. Two cracking goals, one each from Sessegnon and Gardner, sealed the three points for the Wearsiders. Sessegnon's came after an interchange of passes in the box before he swept the ball from the left hand side of the box into the far corner. Sunderland's second was a typical Gardner finish. The number 8 caught a bouncing ball perfectly, hammering it home from 25 yards out.
The goals lit up an otherwise dour game. Swansea passed the ball a lot, mostly in unthreatening areas. Aside from the two Sunderland goals, it was Brendan Rodgers who provided most of the entertainment. His post match comments were greeted with both bemusement and amusement. He told reporters. "It is great for the public here at Sunderland to see us. They must have been wondering what this team everyone is talking about are all about and now they have seen. We were wonderful." Sorry Brendan, but it wasn't quite Barcelona who rolled into town.
The Ref: Andre Marriner
Mr Marriner referees Sunderland for only the second time this season. He previously took charge of Harry Redknapp's opening game as QPR manager at the Stadium of Light. A frustrating 0-0 game ended with four bookings, only one of which were shown to a Sunderland player. Marriner has never been a popular figure on Wearside and has sent a Sunderland player off in three out of the last six games he's refereed involving the Black Cats.
What The Managers Said
There's parallels between now and last season, when we had an excellent January.
We beat Manchester City and Wigan in quick succession and were going strongly at the time.
After losing at Chelsea we came back with big wins against Swansea and Norwich, which took us out of trouble.
We have to try and continue in the same vein if possible, though it won't be easy of course.
When you play an inconsistent team, you never quite know what you're going to get.
But we'll be looking at where we can hurt them with the players we have, and if we continue at the level we have been playing at, then anything can happen.
Roker Report Predicts
Sunderland are in excellent form, whilst Swansea will be buoyed by their League Cup heroics in recent weeks. Goals should be on the agenda for both sides. Sunderland have won their last two league games scoring three times on both occasions as well as conceding twice at Wigan. Michael Laudrup has tweaked the Swansea system, adding more attacking threat to the possession game instilled over the years by previous managers. With 13 and 10 goals respectively, Michu and Fletcher provide the principle goal threats.
Unbeaten against Swansea since their promotion to the Premier League, Sunderland should make home advantage count. That would make it three consecutive league victories. Expect a close game, with chances for both sides, with the team in red and white coming out on top 2-1.