Sunderland v Arsenal – Match preview and team news

Sunderland should have their hands full against an Arsenal side chasing Champions League football and looking a threat every time they go forward in matches at the moment. The Black Cats had been on a relatively good run of form but have disappointed in their last tow league matches, drawing a blank at home to Swansea before falling to a 2-1 defeat at relegation-threatened Reading last week.

Martin O’Neill’s men could be without James McClean who is a major doubt after injuring his ankle for the Republic of Ireland in midweek but Carlos Cuellar could return after a hamstring problem. Lee Cattermole (knee) continues to miss out, as does Wes Brown with a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Arsenal were hit hard by the internationals in midweek, with Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey all returning with various problems. However, all four are likely to be fit, with captain Thomas Vermaelen missing out with an ankle injury picked up in the 5-1 victory against West Ham. Kieran Gibbs is the Gunners long-term absentee with a torn thigh muscle and so Nacho Monreal should continue at left-back after his encouraging debut in the victory over Stoke last week. Fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla will be assessed after turning out in Qatar for his national side in the week.

Up front, Olivier Giroud should continue as the point of attack and after scoring five times in his last four outings, will be confident of atoning for his poor miss against Sunderland early in the season, when put through in on goal on his home debut, he contrived to miss the target.

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