O’Neill took over the reins from Steve Bruce, who was sacked from the job after a 2-1 defeat at home to Wigan two weeks ago. The former Aston Villa manager watched from the stands as his new Sunderland side threw away their lead to lost 2-1 against Wolves at Molineux. Sunderland are without captain Lee Cattermole, who is suspended, and O’Neill should recall Craig Gardner. Defender Phil Bardsley is nursing an ankle injury and striker Nicklas Bendtner has not trained all week due to a groin problem. O’Neill needs to re-address the problems on Wearside and the Sunderland fans will be desperate for three points against Rovers.
Blackburn are without Steven N’Zonzi and Ryan Nelsen and also face doubts over the fitness of Ruben Rochina and Martin Olsson. Steve Kean got an important win against Swansea last weekend and owed the points to the clinical finishing of Yakubu, who scored four times. The Nigerian will keep his place at the Stadium of Light and a win for Rovers will lift them out of the relegation places. Criticism is still evident for Kean’s position at Ewood Park, but a positive result at the Stadium of Light could see some of the doubters quieten down.
Three points are needed for both clubs if they want to make a move away from the relegation zone before Christmas. Sunderland will be revitalised under O’Neill’s new management and they should escape the problems of relegation. However, Blackburn are buoyed from their big win at Ewood Park last weekend and they will gain a good point from the Stadium of Light.