The opening fixtures of the season do little to suggest the final outcome of the Barclays Premier League, but the showings of these two sides in the first two games of the new campaign are polar opposites. The hosts have been nothing short of awful, conceding 7 goals and sit bottom of the pile. Visitors Swansea have started well, and an impressive draw at Champions Chelsea and a home defeat of Newcastle have seen Garry Monk’s side being tipped as a potential surprise package. The Swans have recruited well, and will see the visit to the North East as an opportunity to continue their excellent start. Sunderland on the other hand found themselves 3-0 down at home to newly promoted Norwich last week, and the exodus from the stands was sure to be nothing short of an embarrassment for Dick Advocaat and his men. After only two games of the season, the pressure is on the experienced Dutchman to secure a result, and in modern football’s sacking culture, failure to do so may well result in his departure from the Stadium of Light.
After the embarrassing defeat to Norwich, the general consensus amongst fans is that John O’Shea must be restored to the side. The former Manchester United utility man has a wealth of experience at his disposal, and may be the key to bolstering the Black Cats’ leaky defence. 21 year old academy product, Duncan Watmore, made his first appearance against Norwich, snatching a late consolation debut goal, instantly endearing him to the home fans. The youngster impressed with his willingness to contribute across the pitch, and Advocaat would be foolish not to give the player his first start in a Sunderland shirt. Adam Johnson is expected to be out until mid-October with a training ground shoulder injury, but centre-back Wes Brown may return after minor knee concerns.
The Welsh side have no new injury concerns; with long term absentee Jordi Amat still unavailable. South Korean midfielder, Ki Sung-Yeung, may return after a hamstring injury, but with other options available his manager may not take the risk and gradually introduce the player back into the side.
Head to Head
The teams have met competitively on no less than 30 occasions, with Swansea edging the head to head with 12 wins, and their hosts trailing with 8 victories to their name. Since Swansea’s foray into top flight football in 2011, the teams have been evenly matched; on 5 occasions the spoils have been shared, with Sunderland taking the points on two occasions, and their visitors on one. Last season saw draws in both South Wales and the North East.
Sunderland: Jermain Defoe
With the club already touted for an arduous relegation threatened season, fans will rely on the consistent Defoe to fire the goals required to keep their side amongst the elite of English football. The 32 year old striker has scored goals wherever he has plied his trade, 230 in total, and will need to draw on such form if his current employer’s fortunes are to be turned around. The experienced forward has the ability to conjure a goal from nowhere, but will need to rally his ailing team mates, as even the prolific forward cannot keep his side afloat alone. Defoe must quickly establish an effective partnership with new signing, Jeremain Lens, another proven goal scorer, and if the pair reaches an understanding, then it will not be long before Sunderland start to pick up points.
Swansea City: Andre Ayew
The Ghanaian international has made a phenomenal start to his career in English football, and two goals in his first two outings for the free signing will surely have left fans of other clubs wondering why their side did not swoop when the forwards contract expired with French giants Marseille. Ayew has slotted into Garry Monk’s side with consummate ease, and his menacing presence on the right flank will strike fear into the heart of Dick Advocaat, who will have to alter his tactics in order to deal with the threat Ayew poses. To cause such developments so early into his Swansea career says a lot about the player, and Ayew will be expected to continue his impressive start over the coming weeks.
Contrasting starts between the teams cannot be ignored, and after only two games it is obvious the opponents are heading in opposite directions. Swansea is a team on the up, whereas it is difficult to see how Sunderland will improve. With that in mind, I expect Garry Monk and his impressive outfit to continue their good start, and take victory at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland 1-2 Swansea City