Rowell Report: Sunderland have to get the system right to contain high-flying Crystal Palace

Alan Pardew
Alan Pardew
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The Premier League table looks depressing for any Sunderland fan, but as our next game against Crystal Palace is the last of the weekend, it could look even worse by kick-off.

The Premier League table looks depressing for any Sunderland fan, but as our next game against Crystal Palace is the last of the weekend, it could look even worse by kick-off.

Will the Sunderland boss stick with a flat back four? Or will he go back to the three centre-back and wing-back formation he used in the last away game at Everton?

Most fans would agree that the Monday night is the worst of all the kick-off times, especially when it involves a trip to south London.

Unbelievably, exactly the same thing happened last year, but at least the team got a rare victory and if they can repeat it this time around, the journey home won’t feel as bad for those making the 600-mile round trip.

The last time we played at Palace, at the Stadium of Light in April, it turned into a nightmare for our defenders, who couldn’t cope with the pace of their forward-line, particularly Yannick Bolasie, who claimed a hat-trick.

Since then, Palace have added Yohan Cabaye to the team - a great signing who will supply the ammunition to the pace and power ahead of him - and the selection and system Sam Allardyce comes up with is going to be crucial if Sunderland are going to contain the Eagles’ attacking threat.

Will the Sunderland boss stick with a flat back four? Or will he go back to the three centre-back and wing-back formation he used in the last away game at Everton?

The fact we conceded six at Goodison and were a shambles defensively, would suggest an emphatic ‘no’ to the latter question, but Allardyce didn’t have John O’Shea or Younes Kaboul available then.

If all his defenders are fit, Allardyce might just be tempted to give it one more chance, as there was nothing wrong going forwards that day and that system can accommodate Jermain Defoe.

After his spell as Newcastle boss, Alan Pardew would love nothing more than putting one over Sunderland, as his failure in his last few derbies didn’t go down well on Tyneside and probably was one of the reasons why he left St James’s.

However, no-one can deny the fine job Pardew is doing at Selhurst Park. They’re sitting in a healthy eighth position in the table on 19 points - a massive 13 ahead of Sunderland’s miserable tally of six.

Yet unbelievably, they’ve only scored one more goal than us, and that says everything about where Sunderland’s problems have been this season.