After their fortnight competing in both cup competitions, Sunderland return to normality as Crystal Palace visit the Stadium of Light.
Many predicted that Sunderland would be relegated under the stewardship of Paulo Di Caino, whilst many changed their mind after the appointment of Gus Poyet. The feeling of improvement made since Poyet arrived, who has now been in charge for 5 months, hasn’t lifted Sunderland out of the bottom 3; although, the North East club do have 3 games in hand on their rivals. Facing an important run of fixtures, the form of Sunderland – 4 defeats in their last 5 matches in all competitions – will be a concern, but an unbeaten run of 4 games, including 3 victories, will hold small confidence.
Crystal Palace deemed ‘the no-hopers’ in August have been transformed since Pulis was appointed. Now in 16th on 27 points, the issue for Palace has been their inability to find the back of the net and this has meant they have failed to break away from the relegation area. Like their opponents on Saturday, the London club only have 1 victory in 5 games.
Loaned out after struggling to enforce his mark on the Liverpool first team, Borini has shown that he is over the learning curve of Premier League football and adapted to the physical demands – and this will be important against a Tony Pulis team.
Providing some big goals for Sunderland throughout the campaign, his strike against Newcastle most notably, Borini has a total of 6 goals in all competitions will need to be added to if Sunderland hope to swing the momentum going into the last months of the season.
Long linked with a move to the Premier League after outgrowing Blackpool, Tom Ince surprised a few by choosing Crystal Palace in January – where the pressure to fill the influence that was left by Wilfred Zaha, could fall on Ince’s shoulders.
Ince got off to a good start with a winning goal on his full debut. Able to use both feet efficiently and with a quick speed of thought, the England under-21 international could take advantage of a Sunderland defence that has been full of errors this season.
- Sunderland have never lost at home to Crystal Palace at home in the Premier League.
- Their home record this season, however, has been poor with 8 defeats in 13 matches – a total of 11 points have been picked up.
- Crystal Palace have scored fewer goals than anyone else in the league this season (19).
Sunderland have two injury doubts going into the weekend with Gardner and Brown both having a chance of being available. Kieran Westwood however is out for the foreseeable future.
Palace only have one injury absentee, with Chamakh being ruled out with a hamstring injury that will see him out until April.
The results over the last two weekends will test how strong the mentality of the Sunderland players is and whether it will have a positive or negative impact on the last leg of their season. Crystal Palace will want to avoid defeat and look to attack on the counter.