Steve Bruce’s Hull City host Sunderland at the KC stadium on Sunday, in the FA Cup quarter finals where a win would ensure a momentous fixture at the Wembley, which will only be their second trip in the last 110 years of existence. Having seen off sides from the lower divisions in Middlesbrough, Southend and Brighton in the previous rounds, Steve Bruce’s former employers Sunderland provide them their first top-flight opposition, in this year’s FA Cup. Meanwhile Gus Poyet’s Sunderland, fresh from the defeat at the hands of Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final at the Wembley despite a valiant performance, would be looking to bounce back and book another fixture at the prestigious stadium. Though league survival tops both managers’ ‘to do’ list, both the teams are desperate for silverware to give their fans something to cheer about, which means we can expect both the managers to field their best 11 in this fixture.
Steve Bruce will be without cup-tied strike duo Shane Long (played for West Brom) and Nikica Jelavic (played for Everton), meaning that Yannick Sagbo and Sone Aluko could be tasked with firing the Tigers to Wembley. Steve Harper will battle with Allan McGregor to retain his cup place in goal, but Hull will continue without midfielder Robbie Brady after the winger was ruled out for the season due to a groin injury. Paul McShane has also undergone surgery on the ankle ligaments damaged in last month’s defeat to Southampton, while Joe Dudgeon (knee) remains absent. And Maynor Figueroa is a doubt having had a gruelling friendly trip to Honduras in midweek.
Sunderland is better off by some distance, since the only injury worry for Gus Poyet is goalkeeper Kieren Westwood, who remains sidelined with a shoulder problem but Vito Mannone, who has been solid in the last few games, should start against the team he had a loan spell with in 2012. The goalscorer in last weekend’s Wembley defeat, Italian Fabio Borini who is on a season-long loan from Liverpool is likely to continue up front, while another former Hull loanee, Jozy Altidore, is looking to return to the squad to bolster the attack. Scotland international Liam Bridcutt returns to the squad after missing out on the Capital one cup final as he was cup-tied (played for Brighton) and he could be available for Sunday’s encounter against the wearsiders.
- Sunderland have not won four FA Cup matches in a row since they won the final in 1973.
- The Black Cats have won just two of their last 31 away FA Cup games against a team from the top division (W2 D11 L18).
- Hull City have kept just two clean sheets in their last 14 FA Cup matches.
- Hull City beat Sunderland home and away in the league, doing the double with a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light after winning 1-0 at the KC Stadium earlier in the season.
- Hull City have had 8 clean sheets this season so far, out of which 6 have come at home while Sunderland have just scored 13 goals in as many away fixtures in the league season.
- There have been three FA Cup meetings between Hull and Sunderland, the last of which came in 1976 when the Wearsiders won 1-0 at Roker Park.
Tom Huddlestone has been central to everything that’s encouraging about Hull City. Right from his peculiar barnet to his ability to score from nowhere near the box. The outcome of his midfield battle with Sunderland’s Ki will essentially decide this fixture as the strikers of both teams would be counting on their creativity to deliver the goals. It’s not just his ability to spray those hollywood balls that create openings, that needs to be seen, but also his ability to win the ball and retain possession thereby bringing other players into the game, could make a difference. His tackling stats this season has been nothing short of excellent, with successful 50 tackles out of 76 attempted (highest in the team) and he’s been involved in 194 ground duels which is again the highest in the team having won 104 of them. Creativity wise, he’s been no different this season creating a total of 47 chances (highest – incl assists) and 28 chances from set plays which are going to be vital with a striker of Sagbo’s build and aerial prowess in their ranks. Unsurprisingly, he’s made the most number of passes in the final third for Hull City (382) and the most number of forward zone passes (582).
Borini who is on a season long loan from Liverpool has scored quite a few memorable goals this season covering up well for the injured striker Steven Fletcher. The winner against arch-rivals Newcastle at the Stadium of Light which was a sublime finish and the opener against Manchester City in the league cup final that was equally impressive are goals that give us a glimpse of what he can be and how he can turn up in big games. Borini’s knack of getting behind the defenders and feeding on half-chances should be the key to Sunderland’s chances of winning this game. He’s got quality players in Ki, Adam Johnson who’s been in terrific form of late to create the chances and Sunderland’s hopes of winning this fixture cling on this Italian to score when it matters the most. Borini has scored 3 goals in the league so far, only behind Adam Johnson. Borini’s surprisingly won the ball 7 times in the attacking third, more than any other player in Sunderland, shows his hunger to score goals out of his own efforts.
As mentioned earlier, Hull City have won both their games against Sunderland in the league pretty straightforward without conceding a goal. But Sunderland, having put in such a good performance against Manchester City, especially the first half, will look to use that as a springboard against their FA Cup opponents Hull City and take the game to them right from the word go. So I think Sunderland will win this 1-2 and book another fixture at Wembley, this season to continue their impressive performances in cup competitions.