Sunderland vs Cardiff City Preview: Black Cats searching for first home win of 2017 against high-flying Bluebirds

Sunderland have been unable to secure a home win since beating Watford at the Stadium of Light in December 2016 and their latest attempt to do so sees surprise package Cardiff make the trip to Wearside.

Sunderland vs Cardiff City Preview: Black Cats searching for first home win of 2017 against high-flying Bluebirds
The Black Cats were haunted by another former player last week. (Photo: Ian Horrocks / Getty Images)

Sunderland host Cardiff City in the Championship this weekend as they look to secure their first home win of 2017 against Neil Warnock's Bluebirds.

Cardiff have defied expectations so far to sit third in the Championship table, with only goal difference separating them from Leeds United and Wolves above them.

Black Cats' transitional period not going as smoothly as initally hoped

Following the disaster that was their last season in the Premier League, Sunderland found themselves back in the Championship for the first time since 2006 and with yet another new manager at the helm in Simon Grayson.

Fans expected there to be a transitional period as new players were brought in on a shoestring budget, but at the moment Sunderland are looking like a side who haven't been able to compete with most of the league financially with several poor performances.

They have won just once in their opening eight games, a 3-1 victory at Norwich City on matchday two, and have seen points slip through their hands thanks to goals from former players Daryl Murphy and David Meyler in recent fixtures against Nottingham Forest and Hull City.

Deadline day signing Callum McManaman grabbed his first assist for the club at Hull as his cross was headed home by James Vaughan for his first Sunderland goal, and the winger will add some much needed pace and creativity to the side with Aiden McGeady the only other man capable of getting fans off their seats at the moment.

As aforementioned, it has been Sunderland's home form that has plagued them in recent years and this season has been no different with only Birmingham City holding a worse home record in the Championship across the opening eight games.

Their 3-0 defeat at Everton in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday will not have boosted their confidence, but their exit from the tournament allows Grayson to put all of his resources into getting their league form back on track.

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Are Cardiff this season's surprise promotion contenders?

It seems as if there is a surprise package every season in the Championship, and if they keep up their impressive start to the campaign then Cardiff could be this season's shock promotion contenders.

Last season saw Huddersfield win the play-off final despite finishing 19th the season previous, while AFC Bournemouth won the league in their second Championship season in 2013.

Warnock's men started the season in blistering form with five wins from their opening six games, including victory at Molineux where they defeated title contenders Wolves 2-1.

Recent fixtures have seen the Bluebirds struggle somewhat with two draws and one loss coming against Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End respectively, and that blip in form will undoubtedly test their credentials as play-off contenders.

Summer signing Nathaniel Mendez-Laing has got his Cardiff career off to the perfect start with four goals and one assist in the league, while fellow winger Junior Hoilett leads the assist charts for the club with three in eight games.

The last time Cardiff beat Saturday's opponents was Halloween 2006, when a brace from eventual Black Cats striker Michael Chopra at the Stadium of Light ensured the Bluebirds took home all three points.

Team news

Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore continued his return from a long-term cruciate knee ligament injury with a goal from the penalty spot for the Under-23s against Manchester City in midweek, but is unlikely to be involved with the player himself stating he "can’t rush" his return.

McGeady is a doubt for the game after missing the last four games due to an injury he picked up on Republic of Ireland duty, while Paddy McNair is also unavailable while he bids to return from his long-term knee injury.

Cardiff boss Warnock stated in his pre-match press conference that midfielder Kadeem Harris is "about three weeks away from full training" and also revealed that goalkeeper Lee Camp played for the club's Under-23s on Monday and is close to a return.

Predicted line-ups

Sunderland (4-4-2): Ruiter; Oviedo, Koné, Browning, Jones; McManaman, Ndong, Cattermole, Williams; Vaughan, Grabban.

Cardiff City (4-2-3-1): Etheridge; Bennett, Bamba, Morrison, Peltier; Ralls, Gunnarsson; Hoilett, Bryson, Mendez-Laing; Zohore.