Sunderland v Norwich City Preview | Team News, Stats & Key Men

Sunderland v Norwich City Preview | Team News, Stats & Key Men

Is it too early in the season for a must win game? Probably, but it wouldn’t be ideal for either side to come out of this fixture with nada. Suffering damaging defeats in their Premier League curtain-raisers, the relegation microscope is already firmly focussed on both Sunderland and Norwich.

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The Black Cats would have been licking their lips upon the release of the season’s fixtures. Often playing catch-up by Christmas, locking horns with Leicester, Norwich, Swansea and Aston Villa in the opening four games seemed the perfect opportunity to hit the ground running. Alas, game one didn’t quite go to plan. 3-0 down inside 25 minutes at the King Power Stadium, Sunderland slumped to an embarrassing 4-2 defeat. Dick Advocaat was far from impressed, calling for new faces before the end of the transfer window. ‘You have to show up for every minute away from home and we didn’t see that in the first half. We have to wait for new players. We struggled again. Everybody can see that we need more.’  Last Saturday’s performance was stale. There was little guile or creativity. Sunderland will need to further loosen the purse strings if they are to survive this year. That said, nothing is likely to change before this weekend.

And what of Norwich? Back in the big time once again, the 3-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace was not the dream return the fans had been hoping for. Don’t get me wrong, Palace are no mugs. Yohan Cabaye and Wilfried Zaha excelled, and the Eagles look a good outfit. That said, Norwich looked impotent, failing to make their possession count. The goals they conceded were sloppy. Lewis Grabban and, Play-off Final hero, Cameron Jerome, are likely to get chances at the Stadium of Light, but they will have to be much more clinical if they want to take all three points back to East Anglia. Let’s be ‘avin’ you!

Statistics

Despite having bossed this fixture at Carrow Road, Norwich are without a win in the Premier League at the Stadium of Light, their last away victory coming in August 1997 in Division One. The clashes between the two sides are not, traditionally, high scoring affairs. With 13 goals in 6 meetings, there have been under 2.5 goals per game, the last meeting at Sunderland ending 0-0.

With this in mind, and, indeed, when considering a relegation battle in general, goals are crucial. Admittedly in the Championship, Norwich bagged 88 goals in the league last season. The aforementioned Jerome contributed 20, a club high. His total of 30 Premier League career goals, although not the most impressive, is nothing to be sniffed at. He will be the Canaries’ main outlet on Saturday. Conversely, Sunderland have a Premier League legend in their ranks. Lethal in-front of goal, Jermain Defoe scored his 129th top-flight goal at Leicester last weekend, his 5th for Sunderland. It’s Jermain v Jerome, and whoever has the bigger impact may well lead their side to victory.

Team News

Norwich were frequently overrun in midfield against the quality possessed by Crystal Palace, so the continued absence of Youssouf Mulumbu is a big blow. A fan favourite at West Bromwich Albion (and former Player of the Season), the Congolese midfielder has made 284 interceptions in the last four seasons, more than any other player. The bite in midfield is likely to come from Alex Tettey, with £7m acquisition Robbie Brady pushing on to join the attack.

It’s anyone’s guess as to who will start for Sunderland. I’m not sure Dick Advocaat knows himself. Lee Cattermole was hooked only 30 minutes into the opening game, replaced by Steven Fletcher. Clearly something needs to change following last weekend’s showing. The buck stops with the gaffer, so he has to make the decision whether to opt for more firepower in Fletcher at the cost of keeping out the likes of Wesley Hoolahan and, another former Baggie, Graham Dorrans. Jordi Gomez is the only long-term absentee for the Black Cats.

Key Men

Younes Kaboul‘My client would not join Sunderland even if there was an earthquake. Don’t even think about it.’ That was Kaboul’s agent, Rudy Raba, speaking in 2008 following interest in his client from the North East. How times change. Only three sides conceded more goals than Sunderland last season, and, although last week’s showing did not go a long way to rectifying this issue, the introduction of Kaboul could help sure up the back line. I am by no means saying it will, indeed, there has been plenty of doubt cast over the Frenchman since his £3m move from Tottenham. That said, however he has performed in the last 12 months (if at all), he undoubtedly brings a calm head on experienced shoulders to the Sunderland squad. After a 100% tackle success rate against Leicester, he could play a key role in keeping the opposition at bay this Saturday.

Nathan Redmond – Let’s get down to the facts. Redmond has four goals in his last five games. If Norwich are going to notch this weekend, chances are that the tricky winger will be involved. The 21-year-old was a key figure in the Canaries’ promotion last season with a series of goals and assists, not to mention his contribution at Wembley against Middlesbrough. After being named in the UEFA ‘Team of the Tournament’ for this years’ U21 European Championships, the former Birmingham City man has the potential to be Norwich’s shining light this campaign. After seeing Riyad Mahrez cut Sunderland to pieces with his pace and invention for Leicester last weekend, Redmond should be salivating at the prospect of coming up against the shaky Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt.

Prediction

Sunderland 2-3 Norwich City

As I said, the fixture isn’t usually filled with goals so, naturally, I’ve gone for a five-goal thriller. With that, Sod’s Law dictates that it’ll probably end up as a bore draw. The stats do not support my prediction in any way, shape or form. However, I see two sides with a point to prove coming off the back of bad losses, both with obvious defensive frailties. It could well be an afternoon of sloppy goals, thrills and spills. I fear for Sunderland this year, and Norwich should have that little bit of extra quality in the final third. We shall see.