Gus Poyet has a huge task ahead of him as he aims to keep Sunderland in the top flight. Even this early on in the season, it’s clear that his side will be relegation candidates as they are currently six points away from 17th placed Fulham. They have only taken one point from their opening seven matches which will have damaged the confidence within the squad hugely. They face a tough trip this weekend to Swansea who haven’t had the greatest start themselves. They are currently in 15th place after picking up seven points from their opening seven games. It’s clear that the Europa League is really hindering their league campaign as the players are more fatigued and the team can’t settle due to the squad rotation. Swansea come into the game on the back of two losses against two in form teams in Arsenal and Southampton. There is no disgrace in losing these matches but Michael Laudrup will want his team to be operating in the top 8. In order to do this, they have to take points in the big games.
The International break will have given the Swansea squad a bit of recovery time away from their hectic schedule. A player who will have a spring in his step is Michu who made his International debut for Spain against Belarus in the week. The visitors from the North East have had an intriguing couple of weeks with Poyet taking over from Paulo Di Canio. Some have questioned the decision as the Uruguayan appears to be very similar to his predecessor. Both hadn’t managed in the top flight before Sunderland while they both are also known for their strict disciplinary approach. They may have been safer looking for a manager with top flight experience. Poyet did do a great job at Brighton though, as he got them promoted to the Championship and got them to the play offs last season. Moreover his team played good football and Sunderland fans will hope he replicates the style with them. His team come into this match after suffering five straight defeats, he will be hoping to stop the rut early on otherwise he could face a short stint in charge like Di Canio. Since Swansea were promoted into the Premier League, both of the matches against Sunderland in Wales have been draws. Last season’s fixture finished 2-2 with Steven Fletcher scoring twice on his debut for Sunderland. Both teams are desperate for points to kick-start their league campaigns so it should be an entertaining game. Both managers encourage attractive passing football but Poyet will not have had the time to implement his style which will boost Swansea as they will dominate possession.
Wilfried Bony has the second worst chance conversion rate in the league behind Paulinho. He has only managed to convert 7% of his chances. As a player who is known for his impressive scoring rate, he will want to improve this. Sunderland have conceded more than any other Premier League side. They have conceded 16 which is three more than Crystal Palace who have let in the second most amount of goals. This could be an effect of losing Simon Mignolet and Danny Rose who were a key part of the defence last season.
Michu will be key for Swansea this weekend as they come up against the worst defence in the league. After making his International debut, the attacker will be eager to go back to Swansea and play well enough to keep his place in the Spanish set up. The best way to do this will be to score goals. He has scored two goals so far with a chance conversion of 13%. His clear cut chance conversion of 33% is disappointing for a player of Michu’s calibre and he will want to make sure he starts scoring the clear chances that come his way. Some will have thought that Michu will suffer from ‘second season syndrome’ but that doesn’t appear to be the case as he continues to impress for Swansea. He will get chances against Sunderland as their defence is weak. Plus Poyet may make some changes which could unsettle the back four even more.
Emanuele Giaccherini has been a rare bright spot for Sunderland with his impressive performances on the wing. He came to the North East with a big reputation after signing from Juventus and starring in this summer’s Confederations Cup. The early indications are that the Italian will provide Sunderland with a potent wing threat who is capable of both creating and scoring chances. He has already scored twice in a team that has only picked up 1 point. His total dribbles (18) and total crosses (25) show that he is attempting to be direct in his wing play. He has only managed three accurate crosses though which may suggest poor quality or poor forward play in the box. He has only created 5 chances which will surely improve over the coming weeks under Poyet.
Pablo Hernandez is expected to return from his thigh injury on Saturday. While Jonathan de Guzman and Ben Davies are doubts after missing International matches with Holland and Wales respectively. Ashley Williams is going to miss the game due to an ankle injury after he also missed Wales’ qualifiers over the International break. Laudrup could be tempted to play both Michu and Wilfried Bony in the match as they are facing the team with the worst defensive record in the league. Sunderland could bring in Phil Bardsley from the cold for this match. This could come as a surprise to Sunderland fans as he looked to have played his last game for the club after being punished for his off field antics over the last six months. However it appears he may be given another chance under Gus Poyet. Steven Fletcher is expected to be fit for the match as he has recovered from a dislocated shoulder. Kieren Westwood is a doubt due to a shoulder injury that ruled him out of the Ireland squad. Vito Mannone is on standby.
It’s going to be a very tight match as both teams will be anxious of facing another loss. The two clubs will believe they are lower in the table than they should be. Swansea are likely to dominate possession due to their unique style of play but Sunderland have quality within their ranks that could damage the home side on the break. Poyet will not want to go into next week’s Wear-Tyne derby with only one point on the board so it’s crucial that his side take points from this match. I think it will be a tight win for Swansea but the new manager effect could carry Sunderland to a shock victory. 2-1 Swansea.