- Venue: Stadium Of Light
- Date: Saturday 9th February
- Kick-Off: 3pm
Sunderland look set to be without winger James McClean who injured his ankle whilst on duty with Republic of Ireland in midweek, but might well welcome back defender Carlos Cuéllar from the hamstring problem which has seen him sidelined for over a month. The game will probably be too soon for midfielder Lee Cattermole, despite his return to training this week, and there is some doubt over the condition of Wes Brown’s knee.
Arsenal will be without Thomas Vermaelen, and could be set to miss Laurent Koscielny, who has a calf problem, but midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin should be available, along with Theo Walcott who had a foot injury. They also welcome Ivory Coast forward Gervinho back from African Nations duty, after his side went out at the quarter final stage, but left-back Kieran Gibbs remains out with a thigh problem, with new signing Monreal set to continue in his place.
Sunderland may have done well recently, but they are far from safe from being sucked back into a relegation battle, especially if they continue to look so shy in front of goal. On three occasions this season the Black Cats have failed to hit a single shot on target, and they have so far scored just 14 home goals, the fewest outside the bottom two in the league.
The signing of Danny Graham will be seen by some as a conscious effort to change those stats, but he can do very little from the bench, and Martin O’Neill needs to put his money where his mouth is and start both Graham and Fletcher, rather than sticking with a single striker, especially at home.
Arsenal are similarly blighted by a lack of consistency -like Sunderland they seem to suffer an embarrassing set-back every time they win – and the second half of the season needs to be more focused if Arsene Wenger is to deliver Champions League qualification again. If he doesn’t we may see the end of the Professor.
The result of this one will depend on which versions of both Sunderland and Arsenal actually turn up.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, O;Shea, Bramble, Rose; Larsson, N’Diaye, Vaughan, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Diaby; Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Giroud.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Source: The Telegraph
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