Sunderland are struggling. Winless so far this season with only two points on the board, the only consolation for the Black Cats is that their Geordie rivals prop up the Premier League table one place below them. Talk about clutching at straws. They have gone eight league matches without a victory (D4, L4), and their 11 goals conceded this season is only trumped by Chelsea (I never thought I’d be saying that). In their current state, Sunderland need the comforts of home, a winnable fixture at the Stadium of Light where they can get their season up and running. Alas, no. A 353-mile trip to Bournemouth awaits this weekend, followed by a League Cup tie against table-toppers Manchester City.
Bournemouth have made a mixed start to life in the big-time. Narrow defeats to Aston Villa and Liverpool highlighted the importance of taking your chances in the Premier League, but the barnstorming win at Upton Park showed signs that The Cherries, and Callum Wilson, had started to settle. A home draw against high-flying Leicester City followed by defeat at Carrow Road has shed no more light on whether Eddie Howe’s men can survive this season. We’ll know more on Saturday evening. Both managers will have earmarked this fixture as a ‘must-win’ and will be fearing the worst for the campaign if they fail to pick up three precious points.
The meeting at the Vitality Stadium will be the first between the sides since a Division Two clash in 1990. How far they’ve come. With the pair locking horns only six times, any statistics have little weight. However, Sunderland can take some comfort in the fact that they have never lost to Bournemouth.
Goals may well be the order of the day. Neither side have kept a clean sheet this season, with both teams scoring in Sunderland’s two away games so far this season. Bournemouth are yet to win at home and will be desperate to break their duck at the Vitality. Sunderland are yet to win away from home (yet to win anywhere, in fact), so something’s got to give.
Bournemouth’s win at Upton Park is the highest scoring game in the league so far (7). There have been 17 goals in Sunderland’s 5 games to date. Entertainment is the name of the game. Let’s hope for more of the same this weekend.
Bournemouth have their fair share of walking wounded, with record signing Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel suffering season-ending injuries in the game against Leicester. It’s a major blow for the Cherries in their debut Premier League campaign. It will be interesting to see whether Eddie Howe will give Glenn Murray his first start for the game on the South Coast, in place of Josh King.
Steven Fletcher is a doubt for the away side with a slight knock, whilst Adam Johnson is still side-lined with a shoulder problem. The gaffer may opt for an unchanged side on the South Coast after Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini impressed as part of a front three last time out.
Callum Wilson – When I covered the Bournemouth v Leicester preview a few weeks ago, I focused on the importance of sticking the ball in the back of the net for any Premier League newcomer. At the time, Callum Wilson seemed the most likely player in the Bournemouth squad to get goals. Not much has changed. The addition of Glenn Murray from Crystal Palace on deadline day should lessen the burden on Wilson, but, with four goals in five games, the former Coventry City forward is still the key man. As far as I’m concerned, it will stay that way from now until the end of the season. Without him, Bournemouth have little chance of survival. Sunderland are as leaky as they come, so the young striker will be confident of adding to his tally this weekend.
Jeremain Lens – After a fairly dismal 2014/15 season, Dick Advocaat was keen to strengthen and add some much needed quality to the Sunderland ranks. The acquisitions of Fabio Borini and Yann M’Vila caught the eye, but the marquee signing of the summer was undoubtedly Jeremain Lens from Dynamo Kiev. The Dutchman has started well in the English game, directly contributing to 3 of the Black Cats’ 6 league goals this season. For a team like Sunderland, that’s a solid return on their £8m investment. Man-of-the-match last Sunday, Lens was a constant thorn in the Spurs side. Advocaat will be hoping for a similar showing this weekend, perhaps with a little more ruthlessness in front of goal.
Bournemouth 1-2 Sunderland
Not many will be backing Sunderland after their disappointing start, but football’s a funny old game. Despite having nothing to show for their efforts, they can take some positives from the performance against Tottenham. There may be confidence in the camp that was not there a couple of weeks ago. No doubt Bournemouth fans will disagree, backing their own side to come away with the spoils. Perfectly reasonable, of course, but my money’s on the away side. Sunderland’s season starts this Saturday.
Not that the bookies are on my wavelength!
Bournemouth are the odds-on favourites at 8/13 with Betfair
The draw is 3/1 with BetVictor
Sunderland are 5/1 for the away win with Bet365