After a surprising loss on the opening day of the season last week Sunderland will look to bounce back against Southampton in their first away game of the season. The Black Cats will make the long journey south looking to bag their first points of the season after impressing against Fulham at the Stadium of Light, only narrowly losing by 1-0.
With Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher still out injured along with Craig Gardner missing due to his suspension, Paolo Di Canio will look to keep the same squad he had last week though could be tempted to drop Stephane Sessegnon, after the Benin international’s performance seemed to wander during the game - adding to rumours that the attacking midfielder could be on his way out of Wearside. But this could pave the way for Greek international Charis Mavrias to be immediately added to the side, but that’s only if, and a big if it is, his transfer gets completed in time to be included.
The most positive note to come from the camp could be the welcomed return of Modibo Diakite and Wes Brown, who could be fit enough to make a return to the bench, if they both come through training without a scratch, a start could come around far too soon for the pair.
With the season very much in its infancy and the team still adjusting, Sunderland could be forgiven if they take a few games to get going, although Jozy Altidore’s man of the match performance it may not take that long!
Southampton however will want to continue their early season form after their impressive display against West Bromwich Albion as they prove to show positive development under Mauricio Pochettino. The club record signing of Daniel Osvaldo will add to a huge moral boost for the Saints with the possible link up with in-form Rickie Lambert, it could be a huge thorn in Sunderland’s side and maybe, become one of the Premiership’s most lethal partnerships over the course of the season.
What They Think
We got Chris from George Weah's Cousin (Southampton's best blog site!) to give us his thoughts on the game.
Saints have had a pretty impressive summer in the transfer market, strengthening in all the key areas that we were week in last season. Dejan Lovren has come in from Lyon and will play at centre half, Victor Wanyama from Celtic to add some much needed power to the midfield and Daniel Osvaldo to take some pressure of Rickie Lambert up front. It is really put up or shut up time for Saints who have outspent some pretty big clubs and pushed the boat out for players that some would consider too good for us.
Saints ambition is clear, they want to push on for top 10 this season and then Europe. After an awful start last season Saints felt that they didn't give the best account of themselves last season and after a brilliant opener at West Brom, they will be looking at Sunderland at home as a game to keep that going.
That wasn't the case last season though, and Saints struggled in these types of games at times and that is something that they will be looking to cut out. It is no secret how Saints will lineup, in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation but it will be interesting to see where Osvaldo who should debut will fit in (my hunch is a cameo from the bench). Saints will press from the front and often their fitness is telling against other sides. Expect Saints to attack with gusto at home and control possession and we will certainly be happy to see a Mignolet shaped gap at the back. I will go for 2-0 Saints.
Danger man: Rickie Lambert
The England striker is having one of the finest starts to the season that he will ever have. After picking up his first cap for the national side with a goal to boot, the former Bristol Rovers man will want to add to his penalty scored last week. Apart from his exceptional talent to score or test the best of keepers from set pieces, his brute strength and ability to find himself in an attacking position make up for his lack of pace and is more than enough to scare any back four in the league let alone Sunderland’s. His impressive 14 goals in his first season in the Barclays Premier League enough to show that he is more than capable of avoiding a second season bump.
Sunderland (4-2-2): Westwood; Celustka, O'Shea, Roberge, Colback; Larsson, Cabral; Johnson, Giaccherini; Mavrias, Altidore.
Southampton (4-3-3): Boruc; Lovre, Fonte, Chambers, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse; Lambert, Osvaldo, Lallana
This is going to be tough. Southampton looked the real deal last season, particularly at home at St Marys. Sunderland will have to be careful, especially when the Saints break of on the counter attack. You can almost guarantee that this game will show the footballing world how it should be played, fast paced and direct. Expect tippy-tappy pass and moving with the added spice of smooth attacking play. If Di Canio can fire his players up like he did against Fulham, then a narrow win could be on the cards, but in all honesty a draw is what Sunderland may be able to muster.
Southampton 2-2 Sunderland