Manchester City v Sunderland
Date: Sunday 22 March 2009
Time: KO 15:00 GMT
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester
Odds: City 4/7, Draw 11/4, Sunderland 11/2
On the back of a gruelling penalty shoot-out victory over Danish-side Aalborg on Thursday in Denmark, City continued their press forward into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. Mark Hughes continues to stress that success in the Premiership is the primary objective, and drawing Bundesliga side Hamburger SV certainly means that City have the toughest match of the quarterfinals to press through to the semis. However, you get a feeling that Hughes, and City alike, while publicly speaking of the importance of each Premiership match, would surely trade a few places in the league table to end a 30-year silverware drought which has plagued Manchester’s biggest football club. And unless City somehow stunningly win the UEFA Cup you can expect Mark Hughes to keep the same low-brow demeanour on how important he rates the Premiership over a European competition at this stage of his managerial career at City. Only if City were to somehow push through to European success would Hughes then feel confident enough to let his guard down a bit with the fans, and the pundits alike it seems. Will City have fresh enough legs to continue their home form vs. Sunderland on Sunday after a long, drawn-out emotional Thursday night UEFA CUP nail-biter?
City will test Stephen Ireland, Wayne Bridge and Vincent Kompany ahead of the match for their fitness, based on some injury concerns after Thursday’s match. Additionally, Tal Ben Haim will not be available in this match, which is a huge blow for City as his form this season would surely have offered a big boost to the Blues chances to score a small handful of goals. Clearly, the FA have got to fix a problem like this when it occurs, and ensure that a player of Ben Haim’s calibre is available on the pitch no matter what the circumstance. Bon soir regret.
Both City and Sunderland are in surprisingly similar form of late on points total. City sit 6 points from the bottom three, while Sunderland are only 3 points from bottom. To call this match a vital 6-pointer seems slightly ambitious, but that argument could be made, especially in light of what City face ahead based on their current away form. Here’s a quick look at the form for each club based on their last 6 matches:
City W L D L W L Pts 7
Sunderland D W D L D L Pts 6
Last Time Out
Every club has their bogey team, and for Sunderland it’s City. City have been in form over the Black Cats throughout their history, winning nearly 2/3 of their head to head matches, and in recent history in the Premiership losing only once in the last 8 matches vs. the Black Cats. A superb City win 3-0 at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season kept that streak rolling.City’s Home form this season is a very respectable 4th in the Home form table:
P W D L F A GD PTS
14 9 0 5 30 12 18 27
City’s Away form this season is 4th bottom of the Away form table:
P W D L F A GD PTS
15 1 5 9 15 25 -10 8
Statistically speaking, City are crap away from home, and lucky for them they took down the Black Cats last fall at the Stadium of Light, or they would have 0 (none, zilch, zero) Away wins in the Premiership on the season. The disparity in City’s home and away form is baffling for fans and club alike. City have tightened up their attacking mindset a bit in recent away performances, but still can’t find a win. That means these home matches are more critical than ever as City teeter between maintaining a slight outside shot at a place in Europe and getting sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Chelsea 1-0 City
City succumbed to a dominating Chelsea performance that left City a bit flattered with a 1-0 scoreline. City produced few chances, and found challenges closing down space in the middle for engine room operator Michael Essien, showing surprisingly in-form legs after 5 months out due to injury. A Chelsea squad with him in it for the duration of the campaign, it could be argued, would be top of the table and the talk of United’s fantastic defensive season perhaps would be of secondary note. City lacked anything to offer moving forward against Chelsea, missing Bellamy certainly hurt, and Chelsea showed City just how many transfer windows might be needed to build up a roster capable of competing against the Big Four.
Wigan 2-1 Sunderland
Sunderland lost to Wigan last time out. Which is a shame because Wigan really didn’t need the points and Sunderland did. Wigan scored more goals than Sunderland, and in the end…well, you know what that means. Sunderland need to start outscoring their opponents to win a match. It’s really that simple.
Oh Ricky you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Ricky. Hey, Hey, Hey Ricky.Ricky “Butterface” Sbragia — Can he outwit and outlast Mark Hughes?
Jones and Cisse
With only 8 goals in their last 11 Premier League matches (4 from this pair), Sunderland need to get their shooting boots on against a revitalised City defence, which has shown improvement since adding Seamus Given to their side in January as their starting keeper. Given, plus a peaking Nedum Onuoha and revitalized Richard Dunne are forming a tight central defensive partnership which has shown more confidence in the back than anytime of the season thus far. Can Jones and Cisse find a way to end their drought? Historically, if there is a striker in need of a goal after a long drought, City is the team where he can get back on track. Will that hold true on Sunday?
Sunderland’s lethargic front men — Can they make sweet love on the pitch and seed a new beginning to slide into the final weeks of the season?
Bellamy and Robinho
City’s danger men represent a total of 18 goals in the Prem so far this season. Their alleged dressing room bust-up of earlier in February seems behind them, but clearly they are very different personalities who need to mingle well to achieve City success. Like Shane McGowan and Jerry Garcia seated alongside each other at a dinner party, can these two put their differences aside and focus together to lift City closer to that enviable 7th spot they covet?Like they never even had a fight.
City’s Bellamy embraces Robinho. Can they slip into and open space this Sunday and drive one home?
City 2 Sunderland 0