The return to the Premier league was as frustrating as I remembered it from the last time around. The 1-3 loss at home to Palace was galling in the extreme and the referee was an easy scapegoat for the defeat. However, the bottom line is that despite playing well and dominating possession for long periods we were unable to make that count. We caught on the counter and conceded two very sloppy goals – it`s a worry.
The fan base is reaching fever pitch over the lack of signings with Twitter going into meltdown on a daily basis. Rumours are everywhere and the link to Mattia Destro shows a level of ambition in the sort of player we are looking at. Nothing yet but there are still seventeen days to go so don`t do a Private Fraser “We`re doomed” just yet.
Our next game is away at the Stadium of Light against a Sunderland side who were spanked by a rip roaring Leicester City 4-2 on the opening day. Dick Advocaat will have been working on the defensive side of their game all week I suspect, with changes possible in his back four. The Black Cats have Jermain Defoe up front and he is always a threat in any game, he will need to be tightly marked by Bassong and Martin as his pace will leave both of them floundering if they are not careful.
It has been suggested by some that this is a “six pointer” and that “we have to beat Sunderland” neither of which is true at this early stage but if we`re honest a defeat would be very bad news for either side. I expect to see Nathan Redmond back in the starting line-up for City after his decent performance from the bench against Palace. Alex will also have noted the havoc that Riyad Mahrez caused in the Sunderland back line and Redmond can cause equal nuisance.
The question of who plays up front will go on right until 2pm when Alex will let us know. Do you play Jerome and possibly crush Grabban`s confidence so early on or do you give Grabban a chance to put things right and get a goal? Only Alex knows. It`s such a tough decision and one that I wouldn`t want to have to make.
HEAD TO HEAD
Sunderland are unbeaten in their last six home games against Norwich, a run stretching back to August 1997.
However, the Black Cats have not beaten the Canaries in any of the last four meetings (D2, L2).
Norwich have scored just once in their last six visits to the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats conceded the joint-highest number of home goals in last season’s Premier League.
Lee Cattermole has been booked in 14 of his 29 Premier League appearances since the start of last season, more often than any other player
Norwich won 13 games and 44 points away from home last season, the highest total in the Championship.
Nathan Redmond has scored four goals in his last five appearances for Norwich.
It`s a case of “as you were” for Alex Neil as he has no new injury concerns ahead of this trip. Sunderland have already announced that Adam Johnson will be out for around eight weeks as a result of a shoulder injury. Rather interestingly though, we could see a debut for loan signing Yann M`Vila who was sent off in an U21 game last week against Norwich, for head butting Jamar Loza. Suspensions don`t apparently carry into the Premier League from the Development games, which is a real shame.
I think that City will look to attack Sunderland, who looked very fragile against Leicester, right from the start. I have no doubt that Dick Advocaat will have been using his hairdryer after that Leicester performance and I expect Sunderland to improve. Redmond could well be the key though as this is his time a season in which he can go a long way to determining his future in the game. He has all the attributes, let him use them.
As I say, I expect Sunderland to improve and I`m not convinced we can keep a clean sheet – with that in mind, I`m going for a 2-2 draw.