Two in-form teams meet at The Stadium of Light on Saturday as Swansea make the long trip up North to Sunderland.
Fellow countrymen Brendan Rodgers and Martin O’Neill have steered their respective sides to a safe distance from the relegation zone with a string of decent results. Swansea’s famous victory against Arsenal last Sunday moved them into the top half of the table whilst O’Neill has successfully picked up the pieces in the North-East, since Steve Bruce’s dismissal in late November.
Since his appointment after in December, Martin O’Neill has made The Stadium of Light a fortress for his team and he’ll be hoping to add the Swans to the growing list of victories secured at home.
The team’s tireless efforts whilst playing at in front of their own fans can be outlined by the manner of their home victories since O’Neill took over. A never say die attitude has influenced their two wins, which both came as the result of late goals. Seb Larsson secured a dramatic free-kick winner against Blackburn 2 minutes into injury time and Ji Dong-Won shocked the travelling Manchester City fans with his deft effort 3 minutes into injury time.
The reverse fixture near the start of the season saw the two teams duel it out to a 0-0 draw but a lot has changed since. Swansea have truly found their feet in the top flight by scoring more consistently, maintaining a good defensive record and maintaining their footballing ethos at the highest level.
Away form is another aspect worth mentioning. Since kick starting their games on the road with their first away victory against Aston Villa at the start of the year, and a victory away to Barnsley in the FA Cup, the squad has been brimming with confidence. Rodgers will be hoping to continue the midas touch that 2012 has given them on their travels today.
Nathan Dyer has been in particularly impressive form and will no doubt play another big role for the away team, plus Swansea will also be further boosted by the introduction of Chelsea’s Josh McEachran, who signed on a season long loan deal earlier this week, giving their already impressive midfield a greater sense of depth and talent.
Sunderland could give late fitness test to returning defensive duo Wes Brown and Titus Bramble after they complete their return from a groin and calf injury respectively.
Frazier Campbell will also be another squad member to face a fitness test before the game. The former Manchester United striker travelled with the squad to London for their game against Chelsea last week but still lacks match fitness.
Craig Gordon (knee), Jack Colback (ankle) and Matt Kilgallon (ankle) all remain sidelined for the match with pre-existing injuries.
Josh McEachran is strongly rumoured to be given his Swansea debut immediately, whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson is also in contention for his first start. The highly rated Chelsea prospect, McEachran, will most likely replace Agustien in the centre of midfield if he is given a starting berth.
Swansea maintain their clean bill of health in exception to the two long-term absentees Alan Tate (broken leg) and Ferrie Bodde (knee) however the duo are nearing return in the next few weeks with a string of reserve games available to prove their fitness.
Sunderland (from): Bardsley, Turner, Brown, Cattermole, Larsson, Gardner, Campbell, Wickham, Richardson, Vaughan, O’Shea, Ji Dong-Won, Meyler, Bramble, Westwood, Tounkara, Mignolet, McClean, Elmohamady, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Probable line-up: Mignolet, Richardson, O’Shea, Brown, Bardsley, McClean, Cattermole, Vaughan, Larsson, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Swansea (from): Vorm, Williams, Taylor, Caulker, Britton, Orlandi, Graham, Sinclair, Dyer, Dobbie, Routledge, Monk, McEachran, Lita, Moore, Bessone, Moreira, Rangel, Situ, Allen, Tremmel, Agustien, Gower, Richards, Lucas, Davies, Walsh, Alfei, Thomas, Smith, Edwards, March, R Donnelly, Sigurdsson.
Probable line-up: Vorm, Taylor, Caulker, Williams, Rangel, Britton, McEachran, Allen, Sinclair, Dyer, Graham.
Italics indicate doubtful.
Prediction: 1 – 1 – with both teams in good form I can’t see any other outcome than a draw. A result that both managers will most likely be pleased with.
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