AFTER Sunderland’s miserable defeat at Bradford, they play a team who had the opposite experience in the cup, West Bromwich Albion.
Unlike Sunderland, Albion rose to the occasion and their demolition of West Ham will send them to the Stadium of Light high on confidence.
The reverse fixture was way back on the opening day of the season and it turned out to be an entertaining draw, with Sunderland scoring two quality goals from Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson.
I remember leaving the Hawthorns with a good feeling for the season ahead, but since then, it’s been another grind against relegation and under-achievement.
West Brom haven’t performed that much better than us in the league so far, sitting just one place and two points higher, so at least Sunderland go into the game with the incentive that a win will take them above the visitors in the table.
It’s just a couple of months ago that the West Brom hierarchy felt things were heading in the wrong direction and took the decision to sack Alan Irvine and replace him with Tony Pulis – a manager with a record of never being relegated.
Pulis has become a hired gun for teams in trouble, and not many would bet against him keeping his record in tact this season.
Two West Brom players who know the Stadium of Light well are Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner, and like all players returning to a former club, will be wanting to put on a show.
Sessegnon, while inconsistent, is capable of moments of inspiration and the Sunderland defenders should know all about Gardner’s shooting power from distance.
Any Pulis team will be organised and a threat from set pieces, and in their last Premier League game at Burnley, they scored twice from corners to earn a point.
Sunderland let themselves and the fans down in their last home game against QPR, and in the cup tie at Bradford, so they must start well and get the crowd behind them, as they have a lot to prove on Saturday.