Sunderland face Manchester City on Sunday afternoon aiming for their first league win of the campaign. It will be a stern test against the summer’s top spenders, but Steve Bruce knows the pressure is on after a return of only one league point from two games many expected the Black Cats to win.
The unlimited transfer funds of Sunderland’s weekend opponents only serve to contrast the two very different approaches to transfers the clubs are following. It would be wrong to suggest Sunderland have not spent a significant amount on players over the past couple of years, but it should be remembered much of this has been recouped in player sales including the £8 million received for Kenwyne Jones. With Bruce’s net spend being a fraction of that of Roberto Mancini, it is no surprise to find the bookies are making City clear favourites to take the points on Sunday. The Black Cats will be without Nedum Onuoha which could mean an introduction to English football for Argentine full-back Marcos Angeleri. Danny Welbeck could well play a part after impressing from the bench in his brief appearances so far. After netting three goals in his last three games Darren Bent will have to be on clinical form if the Black Cats are to have any chance of upsetting the odds: “Games don’t come much tougher than this in the Premier League,” Bruce told the club’s website. “Everyone wants to play against a big team and at the moment they don’t come much bigger than City with their spending power and the players they’ve brought in. They are doing extremely well and we know it will be a tough test.”
Niall Quinn has suggested it is doubtful that the club will be involved in any significant transfer activity before the close of the summer window. Bruce is expected to clear out his inactive high earners before he brings in any new faces to his side and the high wages that the likes of David Healy and Teemu Tainio are currently on are likely to prove a stumbling block to any deal being done. Quinn has explained his club needs to follow a more sober transfer policy in order to maintain long-term stability: “There may be room for one more in and there’s been some enquiries for one or two of our players as well,” he told the club’s website, before sounding a more restrained note to fans eager for new faces. “But I will not panic in the last week of the window. I’ll never lead the club into choppy waters financially and if there’s something right for us we’ll do it.” Charles N’Zogbia is just one of several names currently being linked with a move to Sunderland, but as the transfer window draws to a close the club are likely to continue this sensible approach of not being held to ransom.
After a disappointing start to the league campaign, Steve Bruce will at least have been relieved to get a win under his belt in the clubs League Cup tie against Colchester United at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday. The Black Cats triumphed 2-0 with both goals coming from Darren Bent in the first half. The Sunderland manager has in the past hinted at his ambition to achieve success in cup competitions and the strong team he selected for the tie did little to suggest his ambitions have waned. The impressive Simon Mignolet made a string of saves to ensure a clean sheet and his side’s safe passage to the next round, but the very fact he was put to the test so often by a spirited Colchester side was cause for concern for Bruce. “One thing is for sure – if we want to get anything out of the game against Manchester City we will have to play better than we did tonight,” he warned after the game. Sunday’s match is by far the toughest test of the season so far, but with a big and noisy home crowd behind them, the Black Cats will feel they have a slim chance to kick start their league campaign with a much needed and unexpected win.