Three things Sunderland MUST do to get anything at Crystal Palace

Yannick Bolasie celebrates his hat-trick against Sunderland last season with team-mate Wilfried Zaha
Yannick Bolasie celebrates his hat-trick against Sunderland last season with team-mate Wilfried Zaha
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Sunderland will hope lightning strikes twice at Selhurst Park by securing a first away win of the campaign against Crystal Palace for the second successive season.

But against a Palace side nestled comfortably in eighth spot, Sam Allardyce’s men face a tall order to boost their survival tally and end a run of two successive defeats.

Yann M'Vila has a key role

Yann M'Vila has a key role

Here are three things Sunderland must do to earn a point or three in south London:

1. Beware Palace’s threat on the counter-attack.

Despite their lofty position, Palace have only scored one more goal than Sunderland this season, with Alan Pardew’s philosophy revolving around defensive resilience, with the ability to grab a goal on the break.

As Sunderland found to their cost last April though, Palace have devastating options on the counter, with the pace and tricky of Yannick Bolasie, Bakary Sako, Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon.

Connor Wickham

Connor Wickham

Sam Allardyce is unlikely to be sucked into taking the game to Palace, with the Sunderland manager’s predominant focus on injecting greater solidity into the Black Cats’ defensive ranks.

Yet when Sunderland do stray into opposition territory, they need sufficient numbers back to ensure Palace are not able to pick them off.

2. Win the battle of the French midfielders

Yohan Cabaye will inevitably be on the receiving end from the away end due to his previous at St James’s Park, but the ex-Paris St Germain midfielder is still a player of huge pedigree, capable of dictating the tempo and threading a pinpoint pass.

Cabaye isn’t coming cheap with wages around the £80,000 mark at Selhurst Park, yet Palace have gone up a notch with the 29-year-old pulling the strings in the middle of the park.

Despite needlessly conceding that softy penalty against Southampton a fortnight ago, Yann M’Vila has still been Sunderland’s brightest performer of this campaign, as the Black Cats’ midfield conductor.

But M’Vila will need to be on top of his game to combat Cabaye, although the spoils could be significant if he can manage that, with the on-loan Ruben Kazan man still harbouring outside hopes of a place in the France squad for the European Championships.

3. Prevent the curse of the former striker

Connor Wickham is yet to break his duck for Crystal Palace after Pardew shelled out £9million to lure the forward from the Stadium of Light during the summer.

Injury problems have not helped Wickham’s bid to make an instant mark with his new employers, albeit he returned from the bench in Palace’s victory at Liverpool prior to the international break.

But while inconsistent, Wickham’s bull-like power is a real weapon when the 22-year-old sets his mind to it, albeit that was seen too infrequently last season.

If Wickham remains in a substitute’s role, then Sunderland’s tiring defenders will have to be aware of their ex-team-mate’s desperation to make a painful mark against the Black Cats.