Saturday. The day we’ve all been waiting for. A sorely disappointing World Cup, inept of any real footballing brilliance and with a distinct lack of ‘greatest goal’ contenders, has given football fans further anticipation ahead of Saturday’s kick off of the new Premier League campaign.
Finishing 13th last season, Steve Bruce’s Sunderland side hope to improve by avoiding any victory free runs to break into the top ten. To get the ball rolling they face Birmingham at home in a match they’d fully expect to win, “that’s for sure.”
Here’s a possible line-up to face the ‘Blues.’ Expect the standard 4-4-2 formation.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
Recently signed from Sint-Truidense, Mignolet is going to be thrown in the deep end for his Premier League debut. Highly rated back home, the Belgian has been described as a hot prospect for the future. The player steps up as Sunderland have failed to bring in cover for Craig Gordon.
Despite struggling with injury last season, Gordon had his most impressive spell for the Black Cats with top class displays in the victories against Liverpool and Arsenal, keeping clean sheets in both games. Recently breaking the same arm keeping him at the beginning of the year, the Scot will be a huge miss for Steve Bruce’s side.
Expected to play the role of apprentice to Gordon, Mignolet could be exposed to the big leagues much too soon. Having a hit and miss pre-season, the 22-year-old arrives off the back of a rich reputation, which will leave Sunderland fans feeling not-so apprehensive about starting the season without their first choice number one. Mignolet should provide solid cover.
Right Back: Phil Bardsley
Fans eagerly anticipating the league debut of Marcos Angeleri are set to wait a little longer. Both right backs have featured in pre-season, but to keep things safe Bruce is likely to opt for the tried and tested Barsdley. The player can’t be faulted for his work rate or attitude, but pace and quality allude the 25-year-old.
Centre Half: Paulo Da Silva
Because of John Mensah’s late arrival on Wearside, Paulo Da Silva seems an obvious choice as centre half for Bruce. His impressive World Cup displays showed pace and decision making that were lacking from his few Sunderland performances last season. Given more game time, the Paraguayan should play a consistent first team role in the back four for the Black Cats this season.
Centre Half: Titus Bramble
Some might anticipate, others will dread Titus Bramble’s Premier League debut in a red and white jersey. After three years in exile from the North East, the defender returns with three seasons worth of positive write-ups under his belt. Teaming up with old boss Bruce, Bramble is set to silence boo boys of the Stadium if Light, and be assured, there are plenty of them.
With Michael Turner still facing the consequences of ill discipline from the previous season, there is no room for error in Bramble’s first game in front of the home fans. Up against Cameron Jerome and Birmingham new boy Nickola Zigic, Bramble and Da Silva will have to form a solid partnership pretty quickly.
Left Back: Kieran Richardson
Failing in his bid to gain the signature of Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa, Bruce persuaded Kieran Richardson to apply himself to the position of left back. Well it was less of a persuasion and more of an ultimatum. The former left midfielder predictably obliged.
George McCartney faces yet more time on the sidelines through injury, much to the woe of Sunderland fans. Sarcasm lends itself perfectly to that last sentence.
Whether Richardson can adapt his already ailing game to his new position remains to be seen. Don’t be too shocked if Sunderland bring in a real left back before the end of the transfer window.
Right Midfield: Ahmed Al-Muhammadi
Dubbed the ‘Egyptian David Beckham’ by his plaudits, Al-Muhammadi is a pacey right winger who can deliver a ball or two. Sunderland have lacked such a player in recent seasons, filling the role with strikers and central mid fielders such as Malbranque and Henderson. The club have their first player accustomed to the position since Carlos Edwards. Let’s hope Ahmed can withstand the physical nature of the Premiership.
Centre Midfield: Lee Cattermole
If he can stay injury and suspension free, Cattermole could be the talisman of the Sunderland’s line-up. Deserved of, but yet to be named the new team captain, Cattermole showed that when he was fit, he could break up play against the top sides in the league. A natural box to box player with ruthless ability to bully his opposition, Cattermole is also an adept passer of the ball, starting off movements from deep.
Centre Midfield: Steed Malbranque
Back in his preferred position, Malbranque will continue his reign as the main creative figure for the Black Cats. Yet to return to his goalscoring days of Fulham, the Frenchman will hope to latch on to a few more loose balls in his central role. Expect strong competition for his place from new boy Cristian Riveros, another Paraguayan who shone in the World Cup.
Left Midfield: Jordan Henderson
With the absence of Andy Reid through injury and the push of Richardson back into defence, the role of left midfield will fall to Jordan Henderson. Given the youngster’s pace and mind set for creative play, Henderson has the credentials suited to become a winger, but it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be nursed into his preferred central role. Should do a stern job wherever played in midfield.
Forward: Darren Bent
Aiming to show the error of Fabio Cappello’s squad picking ways, Bent will hope to get off to a flyer against Birmingham. That’s if he plays.
The ludicrously timed England friendly has had it’s impact already as Bent pulled out of the squad with a back injury picked up in training, making the hit man a doubt to start Saturday’s game.
If he doesn’t make the cut it will fall to Kenwyne Jones to fill his boots. Jones will hope to put in a performance to win back the support of the Sunderland faithful after a season filled with lacklustre performances.
Forward: Fraizer Campbell
High expectations are placed on Fraizer Campbell following an impressive final third of the last Premier League campaign. Scoring for fun in pre-season, the striker could be hot on the heels of team mate Darren Bent for an England call up. Also becoming a favourite amongst fans for his work rate and desire to run at defenders, the striker has a great opportunity to establish his place in the side.
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