Norwich City - Sunderland Preview: Black Cats face relegation six-pointer

Sunderland travel to Carrow Road this weekend knowing defeat is likely to extinguish all hope of staying in the Premier League.

Norwich City - Sunderland Preview: Black Cats face relegation six-pointer
Image credit: VAVEL

Sunderland are preparing for the biggest game of their Premier League season, as they travel to fellow strugglers Norwich City this weekend.

The winner will take a huge step in the right direction when it comes to beating the drop, in what is still a closely fought battle for survival.

The facts and figures

Sunderland may feel quietly confident about taking something away from Carrow Road this weekend. Norwich City have only managed five wins in their last 19 games at home. Despite this, their form in recent weeks has been impressive. The Canaries have taken seven points from their last possible twelve; this includes wins over fellow bottom-half teams such as Newcastle United and West Brom Albion.

Sunderland, on the other hand, are winless in their last six games. They also haven't won away from home since the middle of January. Jermain Defoe has been in fine form this season but Sunderland have failed to score in their last two games, which isn't good enough considering their position in the league and the amount of time left in the season. 

Tension and emotions will be running high in the game but both teams know they have a much better chance of winning the game with 11 men on the field. In the last four fixtures between these two sides, there has been three red cards so supporters could be expecting a hard-fought battle in East Anglia.

Can Defoe rekindle his goalscoring form from earlier in the season? | Image: Andrew Orchard
Can Defoe rekindle his goalscoring form from earlier in the season? | Image: Andrew Orchard

Team news

Despite Sunderland's lack of points in recent weeks, their performances have been of a good standard. For that reason, Sam Allardyce is unlikely to make big changes to his starting line up. 

The back four of DeAndre Yedlin, Younes Kaboul, Lamine Kone and Patrick Van Aanholt is likely to remain in place. Sunderland have only conceded four goals in their last four games, which is an improvement on previous months.

Youngster Duncan Watmore has returned to first team training this week, meaning he is in contention to return this weekend. He is unlikely to been thrown straight back into the fold however, which means Fabio Borini and Wahbi Khazri will probably start down both wings.

The importance of the game

The league table shows exactly how important this fixture is for both clubs. Alex Neil's men currently sit four points ahead of their opponents and a win would make it very tough for either of the North East teams to catch them with five games remaining; stretching the gap to (a some would say unassailable seven-point buffer).

However, if both Sunderland and Newcastle win this weekend, it throws the race for survival wide open. The three clubs would then only be separated by three points, cranking the pressure up even further at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.