Sunderland take on West Brom tomorrow in what may just be the Wearsiders’ most important match of the season yet.
Having been in and around the bottom three for the majority of the season, Sunderland find themselves in a relegation battle for the fourth successive season. A win for Sam Allardyce’s men would give their survival hopes a huge boost, as fellow relegation candidates Norwich City and Newcastle United face each other.
When the two sides met at the Hawthornes it was mid October and Big Sam’s first game in charge. Sunderland were 19th with three points and without a win and the arrival of a new manager failed to change that. But what did the Black Cats learn from that 1-0 defeat?
Sunderland must take their chances
The hosts must take their chances, also proven in recent games. Billy Jones had arguably the best chance of the first-half when the sides met in October but the former West Brom man failed it to direct it down enough and Boaz Myhill was able to tip it over the bar.
Moments before, Lee Cattermole, who’s last goal came against West Brom and Steven Fletcher now of Marseille also had chances to put their side in front. The pair saw their shots blocked by the defence and Jones failed to make the most of the resulting corner.
Sunderland were ultimately punished for their failure to take their chances as Saido Berahino put his side ahead.
Allardyce’s men must be wary of Berahino, he’s West Brom’s biggest goal threat and will punish defender’s if they’re off guard.
The young forward has three goals in his last three games against Sunderland and will be eager to add to that tally tomorrow. Sunderland’s defence must make sure they stop any impeding danger. The Black Cats have failed to keep a clean sheet since the 28th of November when they beat Stoke 2-0 and that must change tomorrow.
No goalkeeping or defensive errors
In that 1-0 win, there were calls from Costel Pantilimon of hand-ball and a foul from Berahino but the referee waved away his protests and the goal stood. It was an error from Pantilimon and Vito Mannone must ensure he’s on top of his game tomorrow.
The Black Cats can’t afford any silly mistakes at this stage of the season especially when they’re in the position they’re in.
Don't rise to McClean
Sunderland mustn’t let James McClean get to them tomorrow. The former Sunderland midfielder riled Danny Graham and Lee Cattermole at full-time after celebrating in front of Sunderland’s traveling fans. Graham and Cattermole confronted McClean and caused an altercation between both sides.
McClean will be out to punish Sunderland tomorrow and rile their fans even more and Sunderland must prevent the Irish international from doing so.