While Latics were missing three important players in the home loss to Fulham, the Capital One squad’s performance will surely weigh on Roberto’s mind as he selects his XI for the tricky trip to the Stadium of Light.
Mauro Boselli is now the club’s leading scorer with three and must be pushing for contention, particularly if Franco Di Santo fails to recover from the calf injury sustained against Manchester United. All three of his goals have been well-taken, but the chip for Latics’ third against West Ham was sublime. David Jones was another strong performer in London hoping to force his way into the starting XI after a rusty Ben Watson performance last weekend, though this too will depend on whether James McArthur is fit enough to reclaim his spot in midfield.
What is certain is that options abound. Young attackers Ryo Miyaichi and Callum McManaman have had an impact on the last two matches and have left Albert Crusat in the shadows. Emmerson Boyce has done nothing wrong, but surely Ronnie Stam will get a chance to impress in the league at some point. And will Roberto drop Ivan Ramis after his impressive mid-week goal, if Antolin Alcaraz is fit to return from injury?
The hope is that such healthy competition will translate into intensity and focus on the pitch. Sunderland away is always a tricky fixture, but particularly so on this occasion as they seek their first win of the season. They missed out narrowly at West Ham last weekend and were held at home to Liverpool the week before. Steven Fletcher has hit the ground running in his new stripes with four goals in three games and will be a threat, while James McLean and Stephane Sessegnon will provide the pace behind him. Seb Larsson’s free-kicks are always dangerous, and Adam Johnson is on the books these days. As their 0-0 draw away at Arsenal will attest, their defense is well-versed and midfield organized in the Martin O’Neill tradition.
Predicition: Sunderland are a tough side, but with the exception of the second half at Old Trafford, our away form has been sensational. 1-1.
Related: if you haven’t already, please check out my interview on Salut! Sunderland, as part of their pre-match coverage.