Second Season Syndrome they all cried! They were wrong.
Okay, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. We're only two games in. Still, Swansea City have smashed the first two Premier League games, while comfortably moving into round three of the Capital One Cup mid-week. So far, so good.
However, despite two awesome performances, the quality of Swansea's opponents so far has been on the poor side. Sunderland will certainly pose much more of a threat than QPR and West Ham combined and Swansea can't assume a victory, even though confidence is high.
Last season when the two met they played out a 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium before Sunderland took all three points at the Stadium of Light - this was despite Swansea predictably racking up the possession stats and taking more shots on goal. This season we know things like possession stats are just a bonus and mean little unless goals are scored.
Laudrup, we hope, will opt for pretty much the same team that's done the job so far - why change a winning formula?
Though Pablo Hernandez has sealed a place with the club, he won't be in the squad for Saturday. This is good news I think - I'm all for giving players a little time to settle in before releasing them onto the field. The only change will probably come in the centre, where Ki Sung-Yueng should slot in instead of Jonathan de Guzman. Sung-Yueng can take a decent free kick and enjoys sitting back a little, which should compliment Michu and Britton.
So the team you'll probably see Saturday:
Rangel, Williams, Flores, Taylor
Dyer, Britton, Sung-Yueng, Michu, Routledge
Meanwhile, Sunderland should be pretty well rested, having only played one game (a credible 0-0 vs Arsenal) after their second was postponed due to rain. They have a strong squad, with a shrewd manager in Martin O'Neill and top class players including a few new faces that should pose some threat to Ashley Williams and co, such as Louis Saha, Steven Fletcher and, fresh from Man City, Adam Johnson.
It's pointless me pretending I know a lot about Sunderland because... I don't. Thankfully I've been in contact with someone who does: top Sunderland writer Dan Williams from The Roker Report, who has given us his thoughts ahead of the match:
There is a renewed sense of optimism around Sunderland as a club, thanks to Martin O'Neill's hard work in the transfer window. The manager made no secret of the fact that Steven Fletcher was his number one target, and after a long and drawn-out saga, finally got his man, picking up Louis Saha on a free transfer too for good measure. However, it is the signing of Adam Johnson that has Black Cats fans purring, as the Manchester City man shows a real statement of intent from the club, something that we have been crying out for since Darren Bent ran off to Birmingham, and Asamoah Gyan went chasing pound coins in the far East.
Although the weather put paid to our second game of the season, we look strong defensively at the Emirates, and sharp in front of goal against Morecambe in the League Cup on Tuesday night. Simon Mignolet will return in goal, having missed that game, while Carlos Cuellar will return to the middle of the back four alongside John O'Shea, with Jack Colback on the left, and Craig Gardner on the right. Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson should provide the hold in midfield, for a three-pronged attack behind Fletcher of James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson.
Swansea have started the season on fire, but this will arguably be Laudrup's biggest test to date, and I fancy us to go in front. Although my colleagues at Roker Report might not agree, I'm going to plump for a 1-1 draw.
Confidence with caution there from Dan!
Though Sunderland are a bigger team (both physically and in footballing terms) and took three points last time, things will be different this week. Swansea have changed; they now have a few more players up for a scrap and are playing with such confidence it's hard to imagine anything other than a win. They'll also have the edge with the Liberty Stadium as their theatre. It also bodes well that Sunderland have not won in their previous nine away matches.
The bookies (usually in the know) have Swansea as favourites at around 11/10. While Dan predicts 1-1 (odds of around 5/1), I'm more confident of a Swans win. I do see Vorm letting one slip though, but with Swansea's momentum I'm saying 2-1 to the boys in white (around 8/1). A bet on Michu to score two goals or more is 11/1 and also well worth a pound or two!
good article Chris, nice to get input from a mackam! Agree with prediction too!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment, glad you agreed! We were quite close in the end, but the draw was probably the right result all things considered!Delete