Sunderland will be looking to continue their excellent start to 2016 when they face a Tottenham side which is hoping to recover from only their third league defeat of the campaign.
More than enough chances were created, but Tottenham failed to make them pay and eventually became the latest in a long line of teams to come unstuck at the hands of Leicester City on Wednesday evening. The decisive goal came from a rare piece of poor defending as Robert Huth was given the freedom of their penalty area to head home from a corner, but on the whole it was a failure to beat the outstanding Kasper Schmeichel which consigned Spurs to a frustrating defeat.
It meant that they missed the opportunity to close to within just three points of the top of the Premier League, but it should be seen as merely a blip for a side that has shown such great consistency all season. The North London club will expect to have the lion’s share of possession here, but may need to be patient on order to make the breakthrough, as Sunderland are almost certainly going to attempt to make themselves difficult to break down.
After a poor run in December, Sunderland have come good at the ideal time with wins over fellow strugglers Aston Villa and Swansea City, the latter lifting them to within just a point of safety. With the exception of the penalty given against them in the first half, a lot of the big decisions in South Wales went the way of the Black Cats but even so, Jermain Defoe was in irresistable form and if he can maintain that against his former club here, they will stand a chance.
Defoe is the kind of player who will occupy the two centre-backs and ensure that they cannot rest easily throughout the 90 minutes in what looks set to be a tight and closely contested encounter despite the respective league positions of the two clubs. Indeed, this game provides a huge incentive for Sunderland as victory would lift them out of the bottom three ahead of the rest of weekend’s games, and that would give everyone on Wearside a huge psychological boost.
There are no new injury worries for Tottenham, who are still without Ryan Mason but welcome back fellow midfielder Mousa Dembele.
Sunderland have just signed striker Dame N’Doye on loan but he is unable to feature because of work permit issues. DeAndre Yedlin is ineligible to face his parent club.
Last Meeting: On this very weekend last season, a late goal from Christian Eriksen settled a hard-fought game in Tottenham’s favour, with the Dane shooting in off a post with two minutes of normal time left on the clock. Prior to that, an early deflected shot from Jan Vertonghen had been cancelled out by John O’Shea, while Vertonghen was bizarrely denied a late third when he was ruled offside despite receiving the ball inside his own half.
Played for both – Steed Malbranque: After gaining Premier League pedigree with Fulham, Malbranque moved across London to join Tottenham and over two seasons he helped them finish fifth in 2007 and then win the League Cup at Wembley the following year. He moved on to Sunderland in 2008 and was a regular on the wing for three years, although the goals dried up as he managed just one in 102 league outings.