The two teams who sit just above the relegation places, Sunderland and West Brom, meet at the Stadium of Light in the penultimate game of the season. The situation going into the match is that if both teams pick up a solitary draw in either of their last two games, they will guarantee their position in the Premier League for another season. If Sunderland do manage to gain just the one point, huge swings in goal difference are needed to give Norwich, the other team in this scenario, any chance of survival. This means that a draw will be enough for both teams on Wednesday night.
After going eight games without a win, seven of them ending in defeat, Sunderland were looking down the barrel with fixtures against Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd all to come within the next month. The Black Cats went into their game against Man City in 20th place, seven points off Norwich in 17th. A 2-2 draw at the Etihad sparked an unbelievable recovery in which they have gained ten points from their last four games. Sunderland then broke Jose Mourinho’s incredible home record at Chelsea with a 2-1 win, followed by wins against Cardiff and then at Old Trafford in a 1-0 win against United. Very few had given Sunderland a chance a month ago but they now have an opportunity to secure their status in the Premier League with one game to spare, an achievement which will go down in Sunderland history.
Fans of West Brom also feared the worst after demoralising results against Aston Villa, Cardiff and Spurs in which they were 2-0 up within the first ten minutes in all three games and went onto win none of them. However, crucial wins against relegation rivals Swansea, Norwich and West Brom has given the Baggies control of their own destiny once again. Pepe Mel has done well to pick his players up after throwing away vital points at the end of games which could’ve cost dearly had his side not gained draws at home to Liverpool, Everton as well as two draws against Chelsea. Their 1-0 against West Ham last week has all but secured their Premier League status but another win in their last two games will be the icing of the cake to what has been a rollercoaster season at the Hawthorns.
When these two teams met in late September in the reverse fixture, both teams were managed by different coaches with Steve Clarke in the West Brom dug out with the controversial Paolo Di Canio being his opposite number on the day. The match finished in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Baggies to them their first victory of the season. Sessegnon, Ridgewell and Amalfitano ensured all three points and condemned Sunderland to their fourth defeat in their first five games.
Sunderland have Ki Sung-Yueng (knee) Steven Fletcher (ankle) and Carlos Cuellar (hamstring) are missing with long term injuries which are certainly to keep them out for the last two games. Goalkeeper Kieran Westwood is also missing with a shoulder injury but should not be worry due to Vito Mannone’s form in between the sticks. The Black Cats have gone into the last four games unchanged and are likely to do the same with Connor Wickham providing the striking option.
The Baggies may recall Liam Ridgewell and Gareth McAuley if signs are good having both returned recently from injury. Billy Jones is to miss out hamstring injury whereas midfielders Steven Reid and Zoltan Gera will also be absent with knocks. Anichebe may be called up in place of Berahino to add some strength up front.
- Sunderland are without a victory over West Brom since December 2008 when they won 4-0 victory at home.
- West Brom have not lost in the last 8 meetings between the two sides, winning 7 and drawing once.Connor Wickham has scored five and assisted one in his last four Premier League games.
- Sunderland have not won four games in a row in the Premier League for 14 years.
- West Brom have drawn the most Premier League games this season with 15.
Sunderland: Fabio Borini
Sunderland loanee Fabio Borini has had a crucial part to play at a time when the team have needed him most this season. He has proved to be great signing for the Black Cats and has been instrumental in helping his team avoid relegation with some crucial goals. With five goals in all to his name this season, it is not how many goals he has scored but the importance of the goal as they have not lost in any of those matches. He has stepped up to the plate with a calm head with crucial penalties against Chelsea and Cardiff on route to victory in both occasions. He would probably like to have had more goals considering that 47% of his 45 shots at goal have been accurate. With Wickham now Sunderland’s main striker having hit form at the perfect time, Borini and Johnson have had to play vital roles in supporting the front man which has worked excellently in the last few weeks and will hope for the same on Wednesday.
West Brom: Stephane Sessegnon
Stephane Sessegnon returns to his former club Sunderland which he spent two years of his career, scoring 17 goals. The attacking midfielder has endured a few minor injuries this season which has limited him to 24 appearances in the Premier League. Like Borini, Sessegnon plays in a similar role as an influential attacking player for West Brom with four goals to his name and the Baggies have not lost in any of those games. He is more known for his creativity and technical attributes on the ball but he has lacked that creative spark that he has had in past seasons with only one assist to his name from 35 chances created. However, his trickery and low centre of gravity has been helpful in getting past defenders with 46 out of his 86 attempted dribbles being successful. Sessegnon will hope to provide the spark to ensure that his team gain the one point they need to secure survival.
Both teams will be delighted with a point as it will secure safety but with Sunderland on hot form, don’t be surprised if they try to blitz the baggies as they did to Cardiff. Saying that, I feel as though both teams will play out a draw if they are neck and neck going into the last quarter of the game.