They’ll be coming up against former boss Steve Bruce who continues to operate under a thick veil of pressure on Wearside with Black Cat’s fans still unhappy with their start to the season. With North East rivals Newcastle currently excelling at the top of the Premier League and looking down at the Wearside faithful who sit in 15th place and just two points above the relegation zone. Sunderland had the chance to move up the table against Fulham last week but failed to break down the Londoners defensive resolve. Concerns will be centred on the fact that attackers Nicklas Bendther and Stephane Sessegnon failed to score once again and couldn’t find that special something to infiltrate the Cottagers defence. The duo continue to look dangerous and their partnership still needs time to form but goals win games and they’ll need to start scoring if the club are to achieve the prophesied top half finish. One bright spot from an otherwise drab encounter was the performance of Kieron Westwood who has been superb since replacing the injured Simon Mignolet. The Republic of Ireland international made a number of fine saves to keep Sunderland in the game and a clean sheet will provide a major boost to his confidence. Home form has been a problem for Sunderland and despite remaining unbeaten in their last four on their own turf they’ve won just one game at the Stadium of Light this season from six attempts. Defensively the Black Cats are looking stronger and are obviously benefiting from the input of Bruce who was a centre half in his playing days. It’s up front where they have a problem and if Bendtner and Sessegnon can’t find a goal between them against Wigan then the Wearsiders are in for a long and arduous winter.
Rock bottom Wigan finally ended a run of eight consecutive defeats with a 3-3 draw against fellow relegation candidates Blackburn at the DW last week. The point they took from that game was their first since claiming all three against QPR on 27th August although they’ll feel aggrieved that they didn’t come away victorious. A last minute penalty for Rovers was preceded by a controversial goal from Junior Hoilett after the Latic’s took a 2-1 lead in the second half. It was just Roberto Martinez’s luck with the Spaniard watching his side put in a superb performance that oozed with fight and desire which is something that has been absent for the last two months. Martinez made a few big calls before kick off leaving key players out Hugo Rodallega and Ben Watson on the bench in favour of Jordi Gomez and Connor Sammon with the former scoring Wigan’s opening goal. The form of Colombian Rodallega has been a major disappointment with the striker looking lethargic and he has yet to find the net this season. It’s likely he and Watson will be reinstated to the starting line up for the trip to the North East which will see the Latic’s enter the game with renewed confidence. They’ll need to improve on a dreadful away record though that has seen them pick up one point from a possible 18 and score two goals in their six games on the road.
Sunderland – 15th
Last Five: Drew 0-0 v Fulham (H0, Lost 1-0 v Manchester United (A), Drew 2-2 v Aston Villa (H), Won 2-0 v Bolton (A), Lost 2-1 v Arsenal (A)
Potential Starting X11: 24. K. Westwood 16. J. O’Shea [C] 4. M. Turner 6. W. Brown 2. P. Bardsley 7. A. S. Larsson 6. L. Cattermole 16. J. Colback* 11.K. Richardson 28. S. Sessegnon 52. N. Bendtner
Injury News: Bruce could welcome back Titus Bramble after he continues his recovery from a knee injury whilst Ji Dong Won could be rested due to fatigue.
Key Player: Jack Colback
The young midfielder has burst onto the scene this season with a series of composed displays alongside Lee Cattermole in the heart of Sunderland’s midfield. Colback’s elegance on the ball and range of passing has given the Black Cats a creative presence in the middle of the field and his performances seem to improve each week. Manager Bruce has kept faith in him ahead of summer signings Craig Gardner and David Vaughan it has certainly been rewarded.
Match Fact: Despite Wigan being rock bottom Sunderland won’t be welcoming the Latics to the Stadium of Light with open arms on Saturday. They have won just two of the five meetings on Wearside although it’s likely they’ll be confident of securing victory this time around.
Wigan – 20th
Last Five: Drew 3-3 v Blackburn (H), Lost 3-1 v Wolves (A), Lost 2-0 v Fulham (H), Lost 1-0 v Newcastle (A), Lost 3-1 v Bolton (H)
Potential Starting X11: 26. A. Al Habsi 2. S. Gohouri 4. G. Caldwell [C] 17. E. Boyce 3. M. Figueroa 8. B. Watson 21. M. Diame 19. D. Jones 14. J. Gomez 11.V. Moses* 20. H. Rodallega
Injury News: Martinez has a full squad to choose from with Chris Kirkland the only man currently in the DW treatment room
Key Player: Victor Moses
Despite Wigan’s shocking start to the season Moses has been a shining light on the pitch with his intrepid displays down the wings winning him a legion of admirers. His forward thinking style of play give the Latics a sense of purpose in the final third although most of his crosses and neat link up play goes to waste. His pace and skill will be key to unnerving a solid looking Sunderland back four this weekend.
Match Fact: Despite losing five and drawing one of their six away games this season Wigan will be confident of breaking their duck on the road against Sunderland. The Latic’s have claimed seven points from a possible 15 at the Stadium of Light since winning promotion in 2005.
Last time at the Stadium of Light
Premier League 23 April 2011
Sunderland 4-2 Wigan
Gyan, 55. Henderson 66, 76. Sessegnon, 73 (pen).
Diame, 52. Di Santo, 90.
Referee: Lee Probert
Sunderland have blown hot and cold this season but their home form has started to improve slightly and they are unbeaten in the last four at the Stadium of Light. So many summer signings left Bruce struggling to pick a settled starting eleven but over the last few weeks he’s seen his new boys show why he brought then them to then North East. Wigan on the other hand can’t buy a win at the moment but will make the trip to Wearside having ended a run of eight consecutive defeats with a draw against Blackburn. Their form on the road has been dreadful and thats likely to continue if the Black Cats are on song.