Sunderland v Fulham – Match Preview
Being dragged into a relegation dogfight is a real possibility for Sunderland as they continue to look over their shoulders. Three straight Premier League defeats for the first time under Martin O’Neill has left the Wearside club a little too close to the drop zone for comfort. Five points separate them from third bottom Aston Villa and O’Neill knows his side need to get back to winning ways if they are to put to bed any lingering fears. Consistency has been the main issue for the Black Cats this term, while they also need to quickly rediscover their scoring touch having found the net just four times in their last six matches. Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham’s partnership is still in its formative phase but has shown signs of being fruitful once it clicks. If they can reproduce the second half performance from their last home game against Arsenal they should have enough to see off Fulham.
Unlike their hosts the Cottagers put some considerable breathing space between themselves and the bottom three. Victory at home to Stoke last week was their first since beating West Ham at the end of January but their form on the road will be of concern to Martin Jol. Two wins in 13 attempts on the road doesn’t read well but they will be confident of avoiding victory at the Stadium of Light where Sunderland’s record is hardly sparkling itself. Dimitar Berbatov’s return to scoring against the Potters will be of a relief to Jol who will now look to the Bulgarian to fire his side into contention for a top-half finish with a another match winning display in the North East.
Lee Cattermole and Danny Rose remain sidelined for Sunderland who have no fresh injury concerns.
Simon Davies could play his first game in a year after recovering from a serious knee injury, Kerim Frei and Kieran Richardson are available but Mahamadou Diarra (knee) is out for Fulham.
What the managers said…
“Absolutely – very much so. Simon still has two more years left to run on his current contract but we would like to do something, and that is something I want to push forward. If anyone deserves a new deal this season it is Simon, without a doubt. He has been fantastic for us. He’s a really genuine lad. He asked to see me this week to talk to me about the stories in the media, and at that stage I hadn’t seen them. But he felt things were being twisted a little bit, and he wanted to let me know that. I can’t prevent other teams being interested in him, if that’s the case. But I think that, for him, it is really important that he is playing regularly, and things might change – you never know, we might become as good as Atletico Madrid in the next few years!” Martin O’Neill wants goalkeeper Simon Mignolet tied down to a new deal sooner, rather than later.
“I feel that if you have got so many players being at the end of their contract, it can be a big problem. It is something we have got to manage well. I am trying to do that. Negotiations are different with each player. For example, with Damien Duff (who signed a one-year extension last week) it was quite easy. We reached an agreement within one week. But we are talking to most of them and hopefully two or three will sign in the next two weeks. Hangeland is one of them. Senderos too. Some of them, like Reither, we can wait until last month, so there is not pressure for all them.” Martin Jol fears a crisis at Fulham if they don’t tie their star players down to new contracts (Daily Mail)
Pre-Match Statistic: Sunderland are hoping to complete a top-flight double on Fulham for the first time since the 1949-50 season.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Fulham