It hasn’t exactly been the best 12 months in the Sunderland hotseat for Martin O’Neill. Since the dramatic late win against their Boxing Day opponents the start of the year O’Neill hasn’t guided the Black Cats to the heights expected by supporters. However a shred of optimism has creeped in on Wearside recently after two crucial wins in their last three games has slightly staved off fears of a festive battle to avoid the bottom three. And a surprise win against the Champions could be just the tonic for the Black Cats as they look to banish that anxiety once and for all.
At the other end of the table City are still sparring with local rivals United at the top and, after slicing the points deficit to four, know victory in the North East is vital to stay in touch. However, performances have hardly been of the quality fans have come to expect when their team takes to the field. But as the old adage goes, good teams still have to grind out results, and Roberto Mancini will undoubtedly call upon his players to show the same resolve against Sunderland.

Team News

Adam Johnson (dead leg) could miss out against his old club. Sebastian Larsson (knee) is a doubt meaning David Meyler could feature after returning from a successful loan spell at Hull.

City have been boosted by the return of captain Vincent Kompany from a groin injury and Mario Balotelli from illness. However, they won’t have Samir Nasri (hamstring) to call on while Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov are both doubts.

What the managers said…

“I think that it is the most phenomenal life you can get, especially if you have couple of years which are successful. I was lucky enough to be at Nottingham Forest and we had couple of successful years in Europe and that was fantastic. Every player has to enjoy the career. You get paid to stay fit and healthy and as long as you do not have to endure serious injury it is a great career.” Martin O’Neill admits footballers have a ‘phenomenal’ life (Daily Mail)

I have always wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Sunderland.  I’ve forgotten everything about Sunderland. We lost the last two games there in the last minute. Always in the last minute. It’s better that we don’t think about what happened last time. “I’m happy with our players. It’s important that we recover our players that are injured in this moment, we don’t know how many players we lose for African Cup: two players sure, Kolo and Yaya, and after that I don’t know. Abdul [Razak]? We will see.” Roberto Mancini says he wants to leave Sunderland with happy memories and is happy with his playing squad (Telegraph)

 Pre-match Statistic

The Stadium of Light isn’t the fortress some teams come to expect with Sunderland winning just twice in 12 games on home turf. And supporters should be worried given that City have won four of their last five  on Boxing Day

Prediction: Sunderland 0-2 Manchester City

Check the odds ahead of the game at the Stadium of Light with William Hill here

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