Sunderland v Leicester City: Three key battles ahead of the crunch Premier League fixture

Wes Brown in action for Sunderland during their 2-0 win away to Everton. Picture by FRANK REID

Wes Brown in action for Sunderland during their 2-0 win away to Everton. Picture by FRANK REID

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COME teatime on Saturday, Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland side could have secured their status as a Premier League side.

The team standing in their way is in-form Leicester City, led by Nigel Pearson, who have won six out of their last seven matches.

SAFC V Swansea City FC''Lee Cattermole''27th September 2014

SAFC V Swansea City FC''Lee Cattermole''27th September 2014

The Foxes also know a win for them could see them safe, if Hull fail to pick up maximum points away at Tottenham Hotspur.

A lot is riding on the crunch fixture at the Stadium of Light and we’ve had a look at the three key areas where the game will be won. And lost.

Wes Brown v Jamie Vardy:

Experienced Premier League campaigner Wes Brown has shown in the past few weeks there is still life in the old dog yet.

Jermaine Defoe celebrates his goal 2-0 win away to Everton. Picture by FRANK REID

Jermaine Defoe celebrates his goal 2-0 win away to Everton. Picture by FRANK REID

And he will have to be on top of his game to deal with the high-tempo, non-stop approach taken by busy Foxes forward Jamie Vardy.

The 28-year-old has been in fine form himself in recent weeks and is a key reason behind the club’s upturn in fortunes that has seen them go from relegation certainties to favourites to stay up.

They are just one win away and Vardy, alongside Leonardo Ulloa, will be looking to put pressure on Brown and Sebastian Coates from the off.

The Black Cats duo performed admirably in the 2-0 win at Everton and with John O’Shea doubtful still, their partnership looks set to continue.

Lee Cattermole v Esteban Cambiasso:

This battle won’t be for the faint hearted.

Full throttle Cattermole will come up against Argentinian Cambiasso in what is sure to be a gripping encounter at the Stadium of Light.

Central midfield is always a key battle ground and Saturday’s match looks set to be won or lost on who wins the contest between these two lion hearts.

Both have a wealth of experience and won’t want to give an inch for their teams as both sides battle for Premier League survival.

Cambiasso has won the Champions League, five Serie A titles and La Liga and is, perhaps surprisingly, the most decorated footballer to hail from Argentina.

His reputation - and recent run of form - won’t bother Cattermole though, in front of a bouncing SOL.

Jermain Defoe v Leicester’s back three:

When it matters most, hitman Jermain Defoe comes up with the goods for Dick Advocaat’s side.

He perhaps hasn’t scored as many as Sunderland fans would have hoped for since his move to the Black Cats in January when former boss Gus Poyet was in the hotseat.

But when it matters most he pops up with a crucial strike.

Just take the Derby Day win over Newcastle United and his, slightly fortunate, goal last weekend against Everton to seal a 2-0 win.

It was key and relieved a heap of pressure from the Sunderland back line.

On Saturday, Defoe will be up against a back three described as “sensational” this week by Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The Denmark international plays in front of Marcin Wasilewski, Robert Huth and captain Wes Morgan - and Defoe and hardworking Danny Graham will be tasked with breaching their backline.

Can Defoe be the hero again?