Sunderland v Pompey
Stadium of Light
Sunderland are fantastic at home but pretty woeful away from it - unfortunately for us we face them at the Stadium of Light today...
'Positively' though they have some major injury and suspension issues so that is a bonus, right?
It has been yet another traumatic week, off the field for Pompey - a statement of denial against allegations of administration was issued with it 'said' that things are being sorted out, not that this stopped the papers from having plenty to say on the matter after! As I have previously said, I want to believe but it becomes increasingly hard to do so to be honest.
Lets face it, we cannot say the best way to silence critics is by doing the business on the pitch, as it does not work like that - but it sure as hell cannot HURT can it! And ensuring we stay in the premier league will make things a whole lot easier for us in the future...
Avram Grant says: 'I know there is a situation off the pitch, but the people who need to deal with it are dealing with it,' fair enough eh I guess?
Sunderland Team News:
Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson - both suspension - miss from the usual fullback areas with central defenders Anton Ferdinand - ankle - and former Pompey target John Mensah - calf - also both out, add to that George McCartney - hamstring strain - being a doubt and it does not make pretty viewing, from a Sunderland fans point of view anyway!
Craig Gordon - arm, with the keeper being injured by former Pompey striker Jermain Defoe, and Lee Cattermole - knee - who I rate very highly are also out as is a 'reported' former Pompey target Bolo Zenden - hamstring.
Player to watch: Darren Bent
The guy, whilst I still am not convinced that he is actually England class, is still a class act and someone that we would love to have at Pompey, right? The fact that with 9 he has scored as many goals himself, as Aruna Dindane and Freddy P - our top scorers - have combined says it all.
Pompey Team News:
Avram Grant has a virtual full squad to select from. Following Linvoy's retirement this week the only 1st team absentee is Joel Ward, although Papa Bouba Diop is still 'doubtful' as he returns from injury - he did play in a 'specially arranged' friendly against Swindon this week though.
Younes Kaboul - suspension - is back, so he will walk into the side. HOPEFULLY at Tal Ben-Haim's expense, although I suspect that it will be Marc Wilson, unfairly for me, that misses out ... David James - calf - is also back in contention, but will Yoda turn to the master Jedi though or stick with the young apprentice Asmir Begovic?
I suspect that Grant will go with virtually the same selection as last week, keeping Aruna Dindane as the lone striker and pushing Tommy Smith out onto the right in support. I would have liked to have seen Nadir Belhadj on the left, but cannot see this happening - even less so after his 'outburst' this week.
So, for me the side will be the same as last week bar Younes returning, as I say hopefully for Ben-Haim but I suspect Wilson, and probably James - although Begovic would be hard done by if left out...
Player to watch: Aruna Dindane
You know what I really struggled with this, as just about all are key for this game. How Younes fits back into the back 4 and helps keep it tight will make a difference, and what The Prince and O'Hara offer us going forward will make a lot of difference.
Although quite what Dindane does today might make a big difference - goals breed confidence, they did not seem to do so after his hat-trick, but he was pretty pumped up last week after his goal, following the penalty miss!
Match Facts & Stats
The last time we faced Sunderland, which proved Linvoy's swansong, we won 3-1 - that secured our premier league survival last season didn't it? How I would take that today!
We do actually have a decent record against Sunderland as we have won the last 3 meetings between the sides. We have also won 2/3 of the last trips to Sunderland, including one in our 'great escape' season...
5/7 wins at home is not a bad return for Sunderland is it - with only Chelski beating them. That makes the task all the more harder - although, as pointed out, the injuries and suspensions 'help' us.
13 league goals this season for us makes it clear to see where our problem lies - Bent's 9 are almost as many on his own as our entire squad!
Grant has a good record in the North-East, here is hoping it carries on today...
Marco Merrick Terry Lee.
In all honesty when the month began and I looked at the fixtures I cannot say that this is one that I had much hope of 'getting much from', but with the problems Sunderland are having if there was ever a time to 'strike when the iron was hot' now is it, right?
If results go our way we could move up to 18th, that has to be added incentive! Hedge your bets in the predictions league here.