Sunderland v Norwich
3pm Saturday 15th August
League standings: Sunderland 17th, Norwich 18th
Previous meeting: 0 – 2 Saturday 22nd March 2014 at Carrow Road [match report]
Is there a point in a season where the phrase six-pointer becomes acceptable to use? Is it post-Christmas? Is it with half a dozen games left? Sunderland and Norwich will put that theory to the test on Saturday, with both clubs being widely predicted to be two of the three teams heading back to the Championship in May.
Sunderland got their Premier League campaign off to a dreadful start on Saturday, losing their opening game 4-2. Although Leicester have previously proven that they have the firepower to keep them in the Premier League (they scored in nine of their final ten games last season), Dick Advocaat will have been disappointed to see his team concede four goals against a Leicester side who were down to the bare bones in central midfield.
Unsurprisingly, the performance against Leicester has raised questions over the team’s defensive capabilities. Sunderland started with Sebastián Coates and Younès Kaboul in central defense. This was a surprise to many, as club captain John O’Shea was widely expected to at least begin the season as a first choice central defender. Patrick van Aanholt did little to prove that he isn’t suspect, defensively at least, at this level.
Although it’s easy to make too much of an opening day loss, the manner of the defeat was worrying and raised a number of questions over team selection, tactics and most importantly, the mindset of the players. Too many times last year, Sunderland conceded the first goal and lost their heads. It was imperative that we kept the ball and regained some composure, especially after what was an encouraging first 10 minutes.
Lets see what some of the Norwich fans think ahead of the match.
What did you make of your opening day defeat to Crystal Palace?
- It was a harsh result with a lot of positives to take away. On another day we could have walked away with 3 points, so although the defeat is disheartening, I still have a lot of faith in us staying up this year.
- The loss vs Palace was unfortunate, the way we played and in light of the decision to rule out Jerome’s goal, we were at least good for a point.
- I feel like the ref totally ruined that game with 2 horrible decisions (Jerome goal & Bassong pen). However, I think we looked very nice when Jerome and Redmond came on so I don’t feel to distraught, had it not been for the ref I feel we would have won that game.
The appointment of Alex Neil in January had a massive impact on results. How do you think he will handle himself in the Premier League?
- He’ll do fine. He has the players motivated, and has been able to get the best out of players who had been struggling under our previous two managers (like Bradley Johnson and Nathan Redmond). I’ve no doubt he’ll be able to adapt quickly to the Premier League.
- Neil surprised us all last season and if our opener against Palace is anything to go by, we can imagine that we are playing a very positive style of football – at least against the clubs closer to our ability. I think he will do well for us provided that our strikeforce can do a good enough job.
- I think he’ll do well, great motivator, much more positive play than previous managers. The only thing I’m worried about is that he’s not very experienced in the transfer market and from the players we’ve been linked with I think we could see one or two panic buys who flop.
Who are the Norwich players that fans should be keeping an eye on this season?
- Nathan Redmond has been showing consistent improvement for quite some time, and I really think it might be his breakthrough season in the top flight. Jonny Howson is another player who when fit is able to win games almost single handedly at times. We definitely have strength in midfield.
- I can’t believe I’m saying this really as Redmond has been very inconsistent since joining us, but he’s been looking very good since the end of last season – could definitely have an impact if he turns up. Howson is very good going forward and is an absolute engine in midfield, Johnson despite being out wide still challenges for absolutely everything and actually learned to shoot some time last season.
- It’s got to be Redmond, he’s been showing a huge level of improvement in my eyes, but I can see him breaking my heart when he’s linked to a move away at some point. Apart from him I’ve got to go Tettey because I love him.
You’re rumoured to be looking for a striker at the moment. Who’s on your shopping list before the window closes?
- Allegedly Mattia Destro, which seems incredible to me. Other than that, I’d like us to get another CB before the end of the transfer window.
- No one realistic has really caught my imagination this summer. We’re currently linked with Dwight Gayle but I think we’re running out of options. Have also been linked with Mattia Destro more recently, which would be fantastic but I don’t really see it happening.
- We’re linked to quite a few strikers who aren’t really good enough in my opinion, Dwight Gayle (I don’t think we should be competing with Bristol City for players), Glenn Murray and Ross McCormack (…). Mattia Destro would be an interesting signing, though, if it wasn’t too pricey then I’d be excited to see what he can do for us. Apart from that we desperately need a cb, I don’t know who I’d want but I think we need a cb more than we need a striker, someone with good experience and isn’t slow off the mark.
The last time both teams met, the game finished 2 – 0 to Norwich. What’s your prediction for the game?
- I’m going to be biased and say 2-1 Norwich. I think we’ll hit the ground running this time out and will get two first half goals, before a tense final 20.
- I feel a 0-2! Perhaps a bit optimistic, but you seemed poor last weekend so could be a good opportunity to pick up the first win.
- I think this is a game we really should be winning, but I have to say, looking at your defence, it’s got to be 3-1 or 3-2 to us.
Sunderland are one of the favourites for relegation. What are your thoughts on Sunderland’s chances this year, and what do you make of their squad?
- They’ve been favourites I think for a few years and they keep holding on, so it’s hard to dismiss them. There is some established players like Fletcher who are always a danger, and Rodwell who might be a dark horse after a lack of playing time at City. I’d like to think we should finish above them, but it’s way, way too early to tell yet.
- To me your squad seems quite dated. I’ve always rated Larsson and Kaboul, and I think Rodwell can be good. I’m afraid I think your squad isn’t good enough to come good and I put you to finish 18th.
- yeah soz, but I see a season of struggling and Alan Shearer having a section on the Sunderland defending often. I can’t say for sure where I think you’ll end up, because you’ve definitely got some good enough players, but I can see a relegation battle on both of our hands.
A fair bit of optimism from Norwich fans going into the match. Perhaps quite rightly after Sunderland’s performance against Leicester and what was perceived by many as a tight game at Carrow Road on the opening day.
Sunderland will face a different beast altogether on Saturday. Alex Neil’s side were outsiders for promotion when the Scotsman was appointed in January, but Norwich gained 17 wins from 25 games played and finished third, beating Middlesbrough in the play-off final.
They are a solid team, and have added some Premier League experience with the signings of Youssouf Mulumbu, Graham Dorrans and Robbie Brady. Although the club were promoted last season, the team does benefit from considerable Premier League experience with the likes of John Ruddy, Sebastien Bassong, Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan and Cameron Jerome having notched up plenty of appearances at this level.
You can expect Norwich to be largely unchanged on Saturday. There’s a chance that Cameron Jerome may force his way into the starting lineup in place of Lewis Grabban, but expect to see Nathan Redmond come off the bench in the second half as Sunderland tire.
22.03.14 (Prem) Norwich 2 – 0 Sunderland
21.12.13 (Prem) Sunderland 0 – 0 Norwich
17.03.13 (Prem) Sunderland 1 – 1 Norwich
02.12.12 (Prem) Norwich 2 – 1 Sunderland
01.02.12 (Prem) Sunderland 3 – 0 Norwich