Close your eyes & hope for the best; could be the weakest Sunderland XI of the season vs Cardiff

It could be a lunchtime slog for a seriously weakened Sunderland side up against N

by Brandon_Rawlin Saturday, 13 January 2018 09:47 AM Comments
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It could be a lunchtime slog for a seriously weakened Sunderland side. Up against Neil Warnock's cloggers from Cardiff, is this one just a write-off?

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Sunderland take on Cardiff this lunchtime live on Sky Sports for a game many on Wearside may end up watching through gritted teeth. 

Without an experienced striker at the club and with a midfield ravaged by injuries, the Black Cats team will be padded out with a smattering of kids. The XI which take to the pitch will show signs of Chris Coleman's mid-January rebuild - one which has only just begun and one which is being carried out on a shoe-string. 

The Sunderland boss has been clear that those who want to leave will be helped on their way, but the January window is an odd beast and the Stadium of Light clearing house will take time to empty. 

James Vaughan was one of the first out though and allowed to join Wigan yesterday. The striker had made it abundantly clear he had no desire to stick around. No great loss for Sunderland however - the summer signing from Bury was truly appalling on New Years Day in defeat to Barnsley as he looked every bit a man going through the motions. One of the worst forwards seen in the club in recent years, he won't be missed. 

The lack of front-men summed up Simon Grayson's summer business and illustrated the dire planning and vision which still haunts the club. Sunderland started the season light on strikers and now pay the price after Lewis Grabban's loan came to end and Vaughan proved to be a terrible signing. 

Today's game affords Josh Maja another chance to impress but this isn't going to be much of a game for a youngster to get on the end of a few things. The 19-year-old will no doubt spend large portions of the match ploughing a lone furrow, offering an outlet to relieve pressure. 

Midfield is where the problems really lie. Lynden Gooch could get a start and be instructed to link up with Maja when he can but with Darron Gibson, Lee Cattermole and Paddy McNair all missing, the likes of George Honeyman and Ethan Robson will be expected to busy themselves disrupting the Cardiff passages of play. Record signing Didier Ndong may still be nowhere to be seen as he continues to plot an exit route away from the club

Sunderland will be able to field an experienced back-line if nothing else but Marc Wilson is likely to be shoved in midfield to aid the youngsters in there battling against Cardiff's cloggers. Behind him, Chelsea youngster Jake Clarke-Salter will get his bow since joining on loan alongside Tyias Browning and John O'Shea. 

Those centre-haves will have to deal with Kenneth Zahore. The burly striker caused Sunderland's weak defenders problems when the Bluebirds visited the Stadium of Light in September. 

Winger Mendez-Laing and recent signing Yanic Wildschu will combine with Junior Hoilett in whichever system Neil Warnock sees fit and have the ability to really hurt Coleman's rearguard. Full-backs Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews - or even Donald Love - really need to be on top form here. 

Cardiff are on a run of poor and Sunderland have tightened up under Coleman, especially away from home. Defeat could leave us stranded at the foot of the Championship though with Burton, Birmingham and Hull all at home this afternoon. 

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