TOMORROW’S game at the Etihad against Manchester City is a daunting one for Sunderland and about as tough as they come.
Up until their last home game, which they lost to Chelsea, City had been almost bullying teams on their own turf, winning by huge margins and scoring goals at will.
There’s not many teams in the world that possess the goal threat that Manchester City can boast.
Not only from their array of front men, but also midfielders like Yaya Toure and David Silva attack from deep areas and are so difficult to pick up.
Quite simply, the attacking threat from City comes from all over the park and Sunderland need to be disciplined and organised, with the back four especially all on the same wavelength.
Wes Brown’s suspension won’t help in that respect – not only for his defensive skill, but also his vast experience of big games like these will also be missed.
The Brown-O’Shea partnership, so influential over the last few months for Sunderland, will also be broken.
And whoever comes in will have a huge job against the Premier League top scorers.
I don’t see the fact that the two teams will face each other in the Capital One Cup final, having any bearing on the game as it is such an important fixture for both clubs in its own right.
City need the points to maintain their title charge, while Sunderland after the Hull defeat will know they are far from safe.
These are the sort of games where anything Sunderland get will be viewed as a bonus.
City will go into the game as favourites, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Sunderland have won their last two games on the road and are unbeaten in six, playing with a system and style of play that seems better suited to playing away from home.
With both sets of fans having a cup final to look forward, the mood of the crowd should be positive and upbeat and the Wembley songs will be ringing around all areas of the stadium.
For the Sunderland players and manager though, any thoughts of Wembley have to be put on hold as Saturday’s defeat to Hull has made the need for Premier League points even more vital.