They should stop meeting like this!
It doesn’t seem like five minutes since this match was being previewed.
If Jason Denayer is fit, Papy Djilobodji may get an afternoon on the bench.
Of course, the Premier League rivals did battle last Saturday, ‘battle’ being a moot point given Sunderland were thrashed 4-1 by Burnley.
But this is the FA Cup and the third round draw brought the Black Cats and Clarets together for an instant re-match.
Here are three key areas to ponder.
This is not as straight-forward as it looks and how David Moyes balances his side could have a massive bearing on where the spoils go.
Everyone assumes the home boss will ring the changes, after all Sunderland are beset by an injury crisis and he has just lost three players to the African Cup of Nations.
But Moyes can’t be gung-ho with his selection.
There will have to be at least two changes – Didier Ndong will come out (ACN) and Jermain Defoe too, not because he is joining West Ham. He won’t be.
But the 11-goal hero has played virtually every second of the Premier League so far and deserves a rest.
Elsewhere, this reporter expects John O’Shea and Patrick van Aanholt (another to have played almost every minute) to get breathers. On the flip side, some need game-time, like Jack Rodwell and Javier Manquillo.
If Jason Denayer is fit, Papy Djilobodji may get an afternoon on the bench with the Man City man possibly paired with U23 centre-back Michael Ledger at the heart of the defence. Tommy Robson (one of the three unrelated Robsons in Andy Welsh’s U23 squad) would be a good shout at left-back.
Steven Pienaar (again, if fit) would come in for Ndong with young Josh Maja a contender to start up front.
Or Moyes may go with Adnan Januzaj or Fabio Borini up top with George Honeyman in support.
Expect changes, but don’t expect 10 like an Arsene Wenger might.
This follows in seamlessly from the last section too to a large degree.
For all the Premier League is THE priority for Sunderland, this is a tie they should be looking to win.
This is not Chelsea or Liverpool away, this is Burnley at home.
No direspect to the Clarets, and indeed how could you after the Andre Gray-inspired side took the Cats apart last weekend at Turf Moor?
But this tie is winnable – Sean Dyche’s side’s away record is truly woeful and Sunderland’s home record is pretty good, just one defeat in the last five, and that was to Chelsea.
Moyes has to balance protecting/resting players alongside the desire to win and keep the momentum going at the Stadium of Light, especially with Stoke City visiting Wearside next Saturday in the league.
After talking momentum, it would be amiss of me not to mention another m word – money.
The Black Cats could do with the cash. The prize money for beating Burnley, £67k, would just about pay one of their star’s weekly wage, but getting through a round or two and possibly getting a TV match down the line would help greatly.
Given the events at Turf Moor last weekend, surely this should not be an issue.
Mind you, it should not have been an issue over in Lancashire either.
As Defore mentioned this week, the Black Cats “owe” Burnley one and hopefully the side can deliver.
For the fourth time this season, Sunderland let themselves down in a winnable away game, the aggregate score moving out to 10-1.
This is the FA Cup though, effectively a ‘freebie’ to both clubs, who have more pressing matters on their minds.
The Black Cats did bury the demons of Turf Moor to a degree by their display against Liverpool, but they need to prove a point too against Burnley, who inflicted their equal heaviest defeat of the season.
Motivation should not be a problem – if it is, Sunderland could be in bother. The fans were something else on Monday and while they may in fewer number tomorrow, their passion could help the side keep the home run going.