In truth, it is hard to back Sunderland in any game right now. They are currently bottom of the Premier League and without much hope of staving off relegation, but we’ve said that before and they’ve proven us all wrong every time.
But they welcome a very good Manchester City side to the Stadium of Light off the back of a terrible result at home to Southampton, 4-0, and a defeat at Everton. Before that, they shocked everyone with a 4-0 win of their own at Crystal Palace, but it appears that was something of a flash in the pan. City, meanwhile, travel to the North East having won their last three games following a rough start to 2017.
For long periods, City used to hate the sight of Sunderland, particularly away from home, and they may not have things entirely their own way in this game. But it goes without saying that they have the superior quality, and despite some poor results under Pep Guardiola, they are perhaps the most tactically adept they’ve been for years, particularly in attack. This is the first Premier League game without Gabriel Jesus, who suffered a serious foot injury at Bournemouth, and they have endured mixed fortunes since. First drawing a blank against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup, before scoring five in an eight-goal thriller against Monaco in the Champions League.
This game is more likely to follow the path of the FA Cup clash and City will have to be both patient and better in front of goal than they were against Huddersfield against a team known to sit deep under David Moyes. The Black Cats will flood the midfield with Didier Ndong, Seb Larrsson looking to cut off the space for David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, but space will open up for the fullbacks to get forward and in Sergio Aguero they have one of the cleverest strikers when it comes to movement and creating space.
The main reason you can never count Sunderland out is their goal threat. No matter what, if Jermain Defoe is on the pitch, he will always look to score. If he can exploit John Stones like everyone looks to, and gets support from Adnan Januzaj, then things can happen, but anything less than an away win is unlikely.