The Liberty Stadium sees a vital encounter on Wednesday between two sides battling the threat of relegation as Swansea City look for their second straight home win at the expense of Sunderland.
It has been a turbulent start to 2016 for Swansea, who announced last week that Alan Curtis will stay in charge of the team for the remainder of the season. That was after they had lost a tight game at Manchester United, but they then went on to suffer the ignominy of going out of the FA Cup to League Two promotion hopefuls Oxford United, and have now lost the services of influential midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who has left to join Newcastle United.
Shelvey had been involved in an exchange with discontented supporters at Oxford, where team found it tough going for the most part in spite of scoring a sublime opening goal. It is a result which will have only added to anxiety levels in South Wales, so now their task is to regroup and try and ensure that they emerge on top here. If they lose, then the alarm bells would be sounding loud and clear, inexplicable given the amount of quality within their starting XI.
After a run of five consecutive defeats where they conceded a glut of early goals and showed a real lack of discipline at the back, Sunderland breathed new life into their bid for survival by seeing off bottom club Aston Villa. Crucially, that means they are only the four points behind their opponents coming into this one, and will sense an opportunity here if they can start well with the Swansea supporters appearing on edge following a difficult few months.
For much of that game against Villa it could have gone either way, but fortunately for the Black Cats they had the predatory instincts of Jermain Defoe, who used all his experience and talent to hand his side the victory. The former England striker will be looked upon as their biggest hope again here, but this game could be won in the midfield where Shelvey’s combative nature may be missed by Swansea, and Lee Cattermole will be intent on capitalising on that.
The home side are set to make changes from the defeat at Oxford, but have a fully-fit squad available to choose from.
John O’Shea may not feature for Sunderland after being forced off during the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal. There could be a debut for new signing Jan Kirchhoff.