Sunderland v WBA – Match Preview

Two sides who have suffered appalling starts to the season meet at the Stadium of Light in the hope of kickstart and take themselves away from the relegation zone.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is under serious pressure to turn things around on Wearside after picking up only one win from six so far that being a 4-0 win over Wigan. That was supposed to represent a turning point in the Black Cats season only for an insipid display against Norwich on Monday night putting Bruce right back to square one. Bruce’s boys looked uninspired and unwilling to push themselves that little bit further in search of those illustrious three points. A second consecutive win could have provided a major confidence boost and given Bruce a platform to work from. More importantly the grumbles coming from the stands concerning his effectiveness as manager could have been hushed. Yet another disappointing performance only heightened the fans fears that Bruce has taken the club as far as he can after three years of mid-table mediocrity. He hasn’t been helped by the departures of Kenwyne Jones, Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan in the last 12 months with Nicklas Bendtner the only recognised Premier League striker brought in to replace them. He was the red and whites brightest spark in Norfolk and the Dane will be hungry to find the net on Saturday and give the fans something to celebrate. Sticking to football matters it would be wrong to sway off into Titus Bramble’s arrest and suspension in midweek but it’s yet another blow to Bruce who could also be without summer signings Sebastien Larsson and Connor Wickham. They haven’t beaten West Brom in their last three meetings and supporters will be fearing the worst come the final whistle.

The Baggies have a point less than their opponents but sit five places below them in 19th. Roy Hodgson has been unable to replicate the form shown when he took the job in and their failure to score a goal during the second half will worry the former Liverpool boss. Fans have yet to jump on his back after Albion opened their season with games against Manchester United and Chelsea but last week’s goalless draw against Fulham at the Hawthorns highlighted the problems that exist in Hodgson’s side. Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie need to start scoring goals with the former scoring two of the Baggies three goals. Odemwingie scored the other and will fancy his chances in the North East after scoring in both games against Sunderland last season. On the injury front only Zoltan Gera and Marc Antoine Fortune remain sidelined with Gabriel Tamas returning from a ban to boost the defence.

Key Players

Stephane Sessegnon – Despite failing to hit the net for Sunderland this season the skilful midfielder is key to Sunderland’s attacking game. His partnership up front with Bendtner is sure to produce goals sooner or later with the Frenchman always keen to have a go at goal.

Shane Long – He’s scored only two goals since his £7 million move from Reading in the summer and will be expected to increase that total against the Black Cats. Once he and Odemwingie form an understanding Hodgson will have a deadly partnership at his disposal.

Verdict: 1-1

  • Behind only Sergio Aguero’s total of 13, Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon is the Barclays Premier League player to have had the most shots off target (11).
  • Sessegnon has hit the target with only 38.89% of his shots this season.
  • Despite dropping 13 places this week, Shane Long is still West Bromwich Albion’s highest ranked player on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index
  • Long has two goals in 567 minutes of Barclays Premier League action this season has hit the target with 62.5% of all his shots up to now

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