Wise Men Say: Sunderland must prove they are no pushovers

When newly promoted Norwich, full of enthusiasm after their play-off win, took on Dick Advocaat's Sunderland back in August, they dismantled the home side with ease.

Friday, 15th April 2016, 2:00 pm

Anyone could have beaten Sunderland that day, we just have to hope now that the defeat on the second day of the season doesn’t come back to haunt us.

After the defeat to Leicester City, Sam Allardyce was quick to state how the Norwich game is a ‘must not lose’ rather than a ‘must win’.

I can see where Big Sam is coming from, losing would be a disaster and would have the fat lady warming up her vocal chords as we sit seven points from safety.

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A draw would still keep our hopes alive, but it would be a better result for the Canaries than it would be for us as that four point gap will remain.

It will mean that even if we win our game in hand, we still won’t have control of our own destiny. It’s for those reasons that I can’t help but think of this game as one we need to go out and win.

Nobody saw Norwich getting seven points from Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United.

Most had written Alex Neil’s men off and predicated the battle for 17th place to be between Sunderland and Newcastle.

With the Canaries flying high, Rafa Benitez failing to inspire Newcastle and Sunderland being unable to turn draws into wins, it’s allowed Norwich to pull clear of the pack.

A Norwich victory will go a long way to cementing the bottom three, so it’ll be interesting to see how they approach the game.

You can see the home side flying straight out of the blocks to seize an early advantage, but that’s probably exactly what Sam Allardyce is hoping for.

If the manager keeps the same midfield trio of Jan Kirchhoff, Yann M’Vila and Lee Cattermole, then we’ll be looking to absorb pressure and hit Norwich on the break.

You’d expect Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone to be able to answer most of the questions Norwich ask of them, it’ll then be up to the three midfielders to deal with what comes next.

We know that Kirchhoff, M’Vila and Cattermole will be comfortable picking up the second ball, but they need to get it to the likes of Wahbi Khazri, Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini as quickly as possible, something which was lacking against Leicester.

To his credit, Kirchhoff has usually been reliable for starting our attacks, so hopefully his passing is back up to it’s usual high standard at Carrow Road.

We’ll also have the threat of Patrick van Aanholt and DeAndre Yedlin to support the wingers, as van Aanholt looks to continue his Sunderland redemption.

When the lads last met Norwich, the Dutchman endured a terrible afternoon and no one saw him making such a positive contribution as he has done this season.

That 3-1 defeat had all Sunderland fans coming to the awful realisation that they were in for yet another relegation battle.

Things have improved since then though, with the lads averaging a point per game and there’s there’s a spine of competence developing in the team.

There’ll be no better way to show how different a team we are now, than with an emphatic victory on Saturday.