On February eighth, Hull City will travel to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland. This is a classic six pointer between two teams fighting to stave off relegation. Both teams are only two points off the relegation zone but are 13th and 14th respectively. With a relegation race that is this tight these six pointers are even more important.
Both teams have injuries to deal with at this stage of the season. Sunderland star striker Steven Fletcher will be missing with an achilles injury that has bothered him for the last few weeks. The black cats will also be without Kieran Westwood, Lee Cattermole, and Carlos Cueller. Hull will be missing James Chester and Joe Dudgeon but may be lifted by the return of Sone Aluko after over two months out with injury.
In the reverse fixture at the KC stadium, Hull managed a 1-0 win over Sunderland, their first win over Sunderland since 1990. Sunderland are tied with West Ham for the most red cards in the league (5), two of which came in the reverse fixture against Hull. Hull have the joint worst away record, this season, while Sunderland are only a point off the worst home record, this season.
A big catalyst for Sunderland’s revival under Gus Poyet has been the play of Ki Sung Yueng. He has been a major factor in the teams rise out of the relegation zone. Ki arrived from Swansea City this summer on loan and has added that extra bit of on the ball quality to the Sunderland midfield to help Gus Poyet get his team to start playing better football. Ki has been a pass master in the central midfield for Sunderland completing 90% of his passes and 86% of his passes in the final third. Ki has also completed more passes in the attacking half and passes in the final third than any other Sunderland player. Ki has also been a master of keeping the ball and has only lost possession every 12 minutes. Ki has been able to come into the Sunderland team and add that extra quality in the middle of midfield that was desperately needed to improve this team and give them a chance at staying up this season.
The summer purchase of Tom Huddlestone has been key to the relative success that Hull have enjoyed this season. Huddlestone has been able to add industry as well as a touch of class to the Hull midfield. Huddlestone has been able to win the ball back for Hull every 11 minutes. Huddlestone’s key quality creatively has been his excellent set piece taking. Huddlestone has created 22 chances from set pieces this season, a chance every 95 minutes, and has created a chance overall every 54. Huddlestone has created more chances from set pieces this season than than all but one other Hull player has created total, displaying his importance creating for what is in general not a very creative team. Huddlestone’s extra quality on the ball combined with loan signing, Jake Livermore, has provided a strong base in the midfield for Hull. Huddlestone will hope to be able to have a moment of magic to help Hull to getting a crucial three points.
This is a game that both teams will be desperate to win and put some distance between themselves and the bottom three. With Sunderland on a good run of form and out of the bottom three for the first time since August they will look to push on and create that gap between themselves and the bottom three. Hull have been pretty successful this season but have hit a poor run of form with their last league win coming on December 28th in their 6-0 drubbing of Fulham. Sunderland are at home, they are the in form team, and Hull have been abysmal on the road this season so I’m picking them to come out with the three points.