Sunderland — Southampton (FA Cup)
Last FA Cup draw was a curious thing, it put together the top-four of the Premier League going head-to-head thus clearing the path for the underdogs to move a little bit further. To the other League sides it’s an excellent opportunity to reach Wembley, as Gus Poyet and Mauricio Pochettino are keenly aware. Sunderland and Southampton will kick-start the Cup last 16 fixtures with their eyes on the prize.
Gus Poyet’s side has good reasons for feeling confidant as far as Cups are concerned. He already secured a final, to be played against Manchester City, in the Capital One Cup. A road that made them cross the paths of Chelsea and Manchester United, both sent off by the Black Cats. So why shouldn’t they go for another one? It would certainly save salvage them a season that is still facing relegation. The mid-week action scheduled for the Etihad was postponed due to the extreme weather conditions at Manchester and so they lay in 18th place with 24 points to their name and a match shorter. Their form has been picking up, having lost only 2 of the last 10 League ties, significant for a club that is still to escape the drop zone.
The Argentinian Manager promised changes in the line-up, a chance to reward players that what to contribute but did not had a lot of minutes in the pitch, he called it. He even named a couple: Emanuel Giaccherini and Ignacio Scocco. Wes Brown will start serving his suspension for the red card he received against Hull City.
Probable line-up: Mannone — Bardsley, Vergini, O’Shea, Alonso — Bridcutt — Johnson, Ki, Colback, Giaccherini — Scocco.
Southampton are undefeated for their last 8 fixtures in all competitions and are now 8th seed in the League table with 39 points. Through their long history the Saints only won the FA Cup trophy once, so they would like to add some silverware.
Jay Rodriguez is having an impressive season, so much so it earned him Roy Hodgson’s call for England. He has 10 goals to his name which makes him Saints top-scorer. He also leads in assists in set-pieces. He still holds a little too much to the ball but that kind of decision making is a learning process. Mauricio Pochettino has turned Southampton into a squad that values possession and pressures high but have struggled with Sunderland’s men going wide.
Pochettino will be without the services of defender Dejan Lovren and midfielder Gaston Ramirez, both ruled out by ankle ligament injuries. It’s also a good moment to allow Victor Wanayama time on the field to get his form back after two months on the sidelines. Nathaniel Clyne and James Ward-Prowse are both likely to earn a call back.
Probable line-up: Boruc — Chambers, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw — Cork, Schneiderlin — Lallana, Davis, Rodriguez — Lambert.
This will be Sunderland and Southampton’s forth head-to-head of the season and only once did it not end up in stalemate. The Black Cats have beaten the Saints 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on their way to the Capital One Cup Final. But now Poyet claims he will be resting a hand-full of players on Saturday. It’s true his side dramatically lacks depth and it would be wise to disinvest in the FA Cup to spare your strengths for the Cup final that is certain and secure a place in Premier League next season. Or is he bluffing?