SUNDERLAND play Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday in what will be their NINTH cup game of the season.
I doubt very much that Southampton or their fans were too thrilled when they were drawn away to Sunderland for what will be their third visit to the Stadium of Light in four months.
Southampton did not take the Capital One Cup tie against us earlier in the season seriously, choosing to play their second string that night.
But I can’t see that happening in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Southampton are sitting comfortably in mid-table with no relegation worries whatsoever to trouble them.
And with manager Mauricio Pochettino having already said that he is not interested in being in the Europa League, Southampton will surely see this game as their best chance of glory this season.
The Premier League fixture between the two clubs last month is a much better indicator of the task Sunderland will face if they are to reach the last eight of the FA Cup.
That day, a full-strength Southampton team was as impressive as any I’ve seen at the Stadium of Light this season.
When they went two up inside the first half-hour, I thought the game and scoreline could get away from us, such was Southampton’s dominance
Thankfully though, Sunderland showed a great fighting spirit that day and with a bit of help from Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc, we escaped with a point we didn’t deserve as Sunderland were given a real scare from a talented team.
Sunderland’s cup form has been superb this season with one cup final already in the bag and now chasing another in the FA Cup.
I see Saturday’s game as being open and attacking and Southampton will not come to the stadium to shut up shop, it’s not their way.
Their strength is going forward and they play a passing game with imagination and intelligent movement and they are a model I see Gus Poyet trying to emulate at Sunderland.
The last thing either team will want on Saturday is a replay, especially Sunderland,who don’t need another game before the Capital One Cup Final.
So with both teams going for it in the 90 minutes, it could be a fascinating contest and hopefully an entertaining game.