Two sides which have experienced contrasting fortunes in the opening two weeks of the new Premier League season meet on Wearside as struggling Sunderland take on soaring Swansea City.
The Black Cats have been so woeful in defeats to Leicester City and Norwich City that Head Coach Dick Advocaat called an emergency meeting with his players on Sunday, evidently concerned that the team have allowed a pre-season malaise to continue into their competitive outings. The Dutchman is very aware that if it carries on for much longer, the club would be left with an uphill battle to maintain their top-flight status, meaning more angst for the supporters.
They left in their droves as Norwich eased to a convincing win at the Stadium of Light, capitalising on the hosts’ lack of tenacity, intensity or indeed application, particularly evident for an embarrassingly straightforward third goal. There was no pressure on the ball throughout as the Canaries controlled for almost the full 90 minutes, with only young substitute Duncan Watmore emerging with any credit. A big improvement is doubtless needed here, with Advocaat hoping his impromptu meeting has the desired effect.
No such problems have surfaced at Swansea, who as always are a joy to watch and are again looking more than capable of achieving another lofty league position. All of their key players have began the season in fine form, none more so than speedy Ecuador international Jefferson Montero, who has terrorised two international quality right-backs already in the shape of Branislav Ivanovic and Darryl Janmaat, the latter unable to contain him to the extent that he was sent off before half-time.
That encounter, against Newcastle United, was one which they took a firm grip on from an early stage and never looked like relinquishing it. Bafetimbi Gomis continues to show that he is more than capable of filling Wilfried Bony’s boots by scoring his seventh goal in eight Premier League outings, while Andre Ayew provided another indication of why he could be one of the summer’s shrewdest signings. Keep playing as they are, and the Welsh club will be difficult to stop from winning again here.
The hosts are still unable to call upon midfielder Jordi Gomez, but are likely to make changes after the events of their opening two games. Swansea may decide to go unchanged, with Ki Sung-Yueng doubtful due to a hamstring injury he suffered at Chelsea.