Hull City – Sunderland (FA Cup)
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! The song is sure to be playing in every Sunderland player’s mind since last weeks debacle. They were so close and now the chance is coming back again. A successful visit to the Kingston Communications Stadium would get them to the door but surely the now-known-as Tigers won’t just roll over.
It must be hard right now to be a Sunderland fan. Last Sunday’s appearance in the League Cup final at Wembley certainly made the Black Cats proud, the way they showed now fear of all powerful talent packed Manchester City. The 3-1 doesn’t give justice for Gus Poyet’s side performance in the pitch. Albeit their immensely more modest squad they went there and pushed City to a corner, even open the score with Borini’s hit. But in the end the Citizens were stronger and won the trophy. The hard part of rooting for Sunderland is the mixed feelings. Yes, you would love the chance to go further and eventually bag another trip to Wembley. But being aware of their roster’s limitations makes you fear relegation. Right now the Black Cats are on top of the bottom three pack and relegation as a likely scenario. They can draw some hope from the fact the team has been growing under Gus Poyet’s influence and that they are two games shorter. The thing is it will be against Manchester City (again?!) and West Bromwich Albion (a direct contender) so gathering points there won’t be the easiest task. So, if you were a fan you might be thinking being sent off of the FA Cup could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Then Sunderland would be able to concentrate in the remaining League fixtures and guarantee a spot in the top division for yet another season. On the other hand, the success in the League Cup run acted as a boost, an injection of confidence if you will, to face the hardships of a difficult season. Knowing Poyet he will definitely try maintain both fronts alive, expecting the positive results to help them climb the table. So far they had to go through Carlisle United, Kidderminster and Southampton.
Keiren Westwood continues their only casualty. Jozy Altidore should return up front.
Probable line-up: Mannone – Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Alonso – Cattermole – Johnson, Larsson, Ki, Borini – Altidore.
In the FA Cup first round the Tigers found themselves traveling north to face Middlesbrough, and wining 0-2. Then the drawing gods presented them ocean view Southend United, a League Two side, the score sheet exactly the same. When they draw the Seagulls in the last Hull just took progression for granted. Big mistake that cost them two ties instead of one to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals. Brighton &Hove Albion held them to a 1-1 stalemate and only caved back at Hull (2-1).
Steve Bruce will be without fresh signings Nikica Jalevic and Shane Long, the duo is cup-tied for having played for Everton and West Brom early this season. Paul McShane, James Chester and Joe Dudgeon are ruled out due to injury. Curtis Davies sustained a knock that forced him out of the Newcastle match but should be ready for action.
Probable line-up: Harper – Rosenior, Bruce, Davies, Figueiroa – Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler – Koren – Aluko.
A mere 6 points – two victories – separate mid-table from the relegation zone, that is to say 12th seed Hull City from 18th Sunderland. That’s how crazy, and tight, things are in this League season’s bottom-half table.