Saturday 16th May – 15:00 – Stadium of Light
Two sides who looked in deep trouble a few months ago are now on the brink of Premier League survival as Sunderland and Leicester could both guarantee their survival with victory at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. The Black Cats have climbed away from the relegation zone in recent weeks with back-to-back victories over Southampton (2-1) and Everton (2-0). If they make it three in a row against Leicester and Hull fail to win at Tottenham Hotspur, then Dick Advocaat’s side will be assured of avoiding the drop. Similarly, victory for Leicester on Wearside coupled with a draw or Spurs win at White Hart Lane would ensure the Foxes’ top-flight status for next season after an impressive run of results. Only Chelsea have beaten Leicester in the past two months as they have won six of their last seven matches to pull clear of the drop. With Arsenal and Chelsea still to play, victory is a must for the hosts, whilst their visitors from the Midlands face QPR on the final day, but are relatively safe thanks to their aforementioned stunning turn of form.
The Key Battle: Connor Wickham vs Esteban Cambiasso
With recent star man Jordi Gomez ruled out for the season, Sunderland are going to need another player to step up and spearhead their charge to survival.
It could well be the man who single handedly kept them up at this stage last season – Connor Wickham. The 22 year old said that the Black Cats would stay up at the end of April, an unlikely possibility at the time, but he could now score the goal that confirms their Premier League status.
The striker has hit the back of the net six times this season, making him Sunderland’s joint top scorer, and is adapting to life as part of a three man strike force as Dick Advocaat looks to attack opponents throughout the game.
It means Esteban Cambiasso will be in for a tough afternoon in central defensive midfield, but he has been a rock since the turn of the year, making him the unsung hero in Leicester’s side.
The Argentinian surprised many when he moved from Inter Milan last summer, but his experience has proved crucial in the Foxes’ recent surge in form.
Some Leicester fans are even shaving their heads in tribute to Cambiasso, which shows you how much they feel he has contributed to their great escape.
- The Black Cats been hit by the news that Jordi Gomez has fractured his kneecap.
- Wes Brown is also out due to a knee problem, but John O’Shea and Emanuele Giaccherini are available again.
- There are question marks over Jack Rodwell’s fitness, whilst Ricky Alvarez is out for the season with a knee injury
- Midfielder Matty James has been ruled out until next year after suffering cruciate knee ligament damage in their win over Southampton.
- David Nugent is absent with a calf problem but Andy King is available after a hamstring injury.
- Aside from the injured James who will be replaced by Danny Drinkwater, Nigel Pearson could be set to name an unchanged XI from last weekend.
Sunderland wins = 29 / Leicester City wins = 31 / Draws = 21
Last Meeting: Leicester City 0-0 Sunderland (22nd November 2014)
Leicester failed to score for a fifth game in succession as they battled out a goalless draw with Sunderland. In a match which both sides were desperate not to lose, the Foxes had the best of the chances with Jeffrey Schlupp and Matty James going close. Steven Fletcher missed Sunderland’s best opportunity when he was denied from close range by Kasper Schmeichel.
Stat of the Match
Sunderland have not won three league games in a row since May last year, whilst Leicester have never won three away games in a row in the Premier League.
Where can I watch it?
Unfortunately the game is being shown on live TV, but can be listened to on the radio or watched on an internet stream. For a viewing without the lag, Match of the Day has the highlights on Saturday evening at 10:30pm on BBC One.
My Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Leicester City
Without Jordi Gomez in the side, Sunderland could struggle to create chances, and Danny Graham is yet to prove himself as a number nine. None the less, Dick Advocaat knows how to get the best out of his players, and they should manage a point against a resilient Leicester side who aren’t going to let their fine form slip this close to survival. I think Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy will score the goals, but it’s a point that the Foxes will be more happy with than the Black Cats.
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