Chris Young analysis - Can Poyet pair Cattermole and Bridcutt?

Liam Bridcutt

Liam Bridcutt

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IN THE search for a winning formula during the darkest of days prior to the Great Escape, Gus Poyet showed no fear in getting radical over Sunderland’s formation.

Poyet even took on the role of trend-setter by fielding three centre-halves before it became flavour of the month at the summer’s World Cup, albeit it failed to yield a single point from three games.

The Uruguayan has been far more consistent with his system this time around; sticking steadfastly to the 4-1-4-1 strategy which Sunderland’s players worked on throughout the summer.

However, while publicly claimed that it was too soon to be panicking and adopting a fresh formation, Poyet was pondering whether to tweak his strategy prior to the crucial trip to Crystal Palace earlier this month.

The manner of the back-to-back defeats to Southampton and Arsenal prompted Poyet to consider whether to shore up the ship at Selhurst Park and park both Lee Cattermole and Liam Bridcutt in front of the back four.

It was a ploy used sporadically by Poyet last season, yet one which didn’t necessarily convince.

But after Bridcutt’s impressive first Premier League start of the campaign against Everton a fortnight ago and Cattermole’s return from suspension, does Poyet take a closer look at pairing the two defensive midfielders at Leicester tomorrow?

Certainly, that solid base would hand the third member of the midfield trio the licence to almost operate as a number 10, rather than worry about significant defensive duties.

That would suit fit-again Ricky Alvarez - back in the squad this weekend after recovering from a knee injury - down to the ground, as it would Emanuele Giaccherini, with the Italian international also nearing a return.

However, when Sunderland have only managed a modest 12 goals in 11 league outings so far this season, is the answer to improving their attacking potency really to introduce another defensive-minded midfielder?

As well as Bridcutt performed against Everton, the suspicion is that Cattermole will come straight back into the side tomorrow.

It would undoubtedly be harsh on Bridcutt, yet Cattermole has been one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers this season.

That may be the only change from Poyet though.

While Alvarez and Sebastian Coates are welcome additions to a squad which had reached the bare-bones, both are only likely to be on the bench tomorrow.

The biggest boost for Poyet is that he doesn’t have to make a change up front after Steven Fletcher was given the all-clear, following his injury scare on international duty.

Fletcher may have only fed on scraps against Everton, but in his few touches and a couple of slick turns, the Scot continued to highlight the confidence which has seeped back into his game.

In an encounter like this one, that extra touch of predatory sharpness could be crucial.

There are unlikely to be many goals tomorrow. Sunderland netted three in their last away outing at Palace, but that was the first time they had found the net on the road since August.

Leicester’s problems have been even more acute since their 5-3 victory over Manchester United in September - five defeats without scoring and a 2-2 draw against Burnley.

It’s been a dramatic slump for Nigel Pearson’s side.

The goals for Poyet’s ex-Brighton striker Leonardo Ulloa have dried up and the Foxes didn’t even manage a shot on target in their last outing at Southampton, albeit that was hardly a ground where Sunderland covered themselves in glory...

Sunderland can’t take it lightly. They came a cropper at QPR when everything looked to be transpiring in their favour.

But Poyet’s men held their nerve at Palace to put a huge three points on the board. There is an opportunity to do likewise at the King Power Stadium tomorrow.

Verdict: Away win