Saturday 16th April – 12:45 – Carrow Road
Sunderland head to Norwich in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off with both clubs scrapping for their top-flight survival. The Canaries moved out of the relegation zone with back-to-back wins over Newcastle and West Brom, but a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace last time out leaves them just four points ahead of 18th placed Sunderland. The Black Cats haven’t won in their previous six games and lost to league leaders Leicester City 2-0 last weekend. Their away form is also terrible, winning just three of their last 27 Premier League games on the road, whilst Sam Allardyce has never won at Carrow Road in three attempts (D1, L2). Some hope for the visitors though is that Norwich are vying to earn successive home wins for only the second time this season. Although not absolutely crucial, it is certainly a must-not-lose game for both teams if they are to keep alive hopes of playing in the Premier League next season, so can certainly be described using the old cliche ‘relegation six-pointer’.
- Influential defender Timm Klose is expected to be ruled out after he limped off during against Crystal Palace due to jarring his knee, so Sebastien Bassong is on standby to deputise.
- Russell Martin has missed the last two games with a knock but is in contention to return at right-back, replacing Andre Wisdom.
- Alex Tettey remains a long term absentee with an ankle injury.
- Sunderland have a fully-fit squad, with Duncan Watmore returning to the squad, having not featured since damaging ankle ligaments in early February.
- The young attacker appears unlikely to be rushed straight back into the starting XI so Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini are set to continue out wide in Sam Allardyce’s preferred 4-1-4-1 formation.
- Jermain Defoe should continue as the Black Cats’ lone striker, whilst Jan Kirchhoff operates as the defensive midfielder screening the back four.
The Key Battle: Sebastien Bassong vs Jermain Defoe
Timm Klose has had an impressive impact at Norwich City since signing from Wolfsburg in January, helping to sure up their defence to an extent and showing real quality at the back.
But after he limped off in the defeat at Crystal Palace last weekend, Sebastien Bassong is expected to replace him at centre-back. The Cameroon international made his name at fellow strugglers Newcastle, who he was relegated with in 2009 before making an £8 million move to Tottenham.
Bassong could well play a part in sending the Magpies down again, and a solid performance against Sunderland could well push the Black Cats in the same direction.
But the visitors have been known for their miraculous escapes in recent years, and last season it was Jermain Defoe who spearheaded their survival charge after making a January move from Toronto.
This season he is still banging in the goals aged 33, and is the third highest scoring Englishman in the division behind Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy with 12 league goals. Nine of those have come away from home, so he’ll be hoping for more success on his travels at Carrow Road.
Bassong and Defoe spent three years at Spurs together near the top of the Premier League table, but now must fight against each other to avoid the drop.
Norwich City wins = 27 / Sunderland wins = 17 / Draws = 15
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Sunderland 1-3 Norwich City (15th August 2015)
Norwich City stunned Sunderland at the Stadium of Light to earn a deserved first win of the season. Russell Martin opened the scoring fortuitously, inadvertently turning the ball home after Costel Pantilimon parried a Robbie Brady shot. Steven Whittaker slammed home a second after a one-two with Wes Hoolahan, who also assisted in the Canaries’ third from Nathan Redmond after the break. Duncan Watmore then scored a late consolation on his Sunderland debut. The 21-year-old struck with the Black Cats’ second shot on target in the 88th minute, by which time many home fans had already left the ground. [Full BBC report]
Alex Neil: “This is what we play football for, to be involved in big games. Both teams don’t want to give anything away, but both teams will recognise the fact that they both need to win the game. We’ve been in high pressure situations quite a lot of the time since I’ve been here, and you’ve got to enjoy it and go and show everybody what you can do.”
Sam Allardyce: “It would hurt immensely if the club got relegated, for the club’s sake first, not mine. I’ve had a fantastic career. The players, most of them will never get a club better than this, in my opinion, with its facilities and its supporters, playing in the top league in the world, and they really need to realise that. Let’s stay in the Premier League and let’s make the club even better. That’s their big challenge in the next six games.”
The Referee – Andre Marriner
- Last Premier League game: Swansea City 1-0 Chelsea (9th April 2016) – 9 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Norwich City game: Blackpool 1-3 Norwich City (27th September 2014) – 4 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Sunderland game: Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United (13th February 2016) – 5 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 30 / Yellow cards = 103 / Red cards = 5 / Penalties = 10
Stat of the Match
Norwich have conceded a league-high eight penalties this season. Sunderland are next with seven.
Where Can I Watch It?
As it is the lunchtime fixture, BT Sport 1 are showing the game live from 12pm, with kick-off 45 minutes later. The highlights will then be on BBC One’s Match of the Day at 10:25 pm on Saturday evening.
My Prediction: Norwich City 2-2 Sunderland
I expect a high scoring game as it was when Newcastle visited Carrow Road a couple of weeks ago, but on this occasion I think the two teams will share the points. Sunderland will go ahead through Jermain Defoe, but Norwich will come from behind to lead thanks to goals from Dieumerci Mbokani and Jonny Howson. Fabio Borini will then earn a draw for the visitors – a result that the Canaries will be more happy with than the Black Cats.