Three vitally important points that will affect matters at both ends of the table are being contested on Wearside as Sunderland bid to reduce the gap to safety by sealing an improbable victory over leaders Leicester City.
Luck was not on Sunderland’s side last time out as they dominated throughout against West Bromwich Albion but somehow could not find that all-important breakthrough, as goalkeeper Ben Foster kept them out on multiple occasions. It was difficult to take all round as that draw was compounded by the late winner for Norwich City, which means that there is now four points separating the two sides on either side of the relegation line, so there is a pressing need to triumph here.
The football they played against West Brom offered plenty of encouragement, and the Black Cats will feel that they can hurt Leicester. It will be interesting to see what system manager Sam Allardyce adopts, as while he knows that his team needs goals, he cannot afford for them to fall into the same trap as many of the visitors’ other opponents have this season. Holding midfielder Jan Kirchhoff has made a big difference since arriving in January, and could play a key role again here in deciding the outcome.
As each week passes and they continue to win football matches, it increasingly seems that there is nothing that can stop Leicester from doing the seemingly impossible and winning the title. The gap now stands at seven points with just six games left, from which only four more wins are required, so it has to be said that it would take a rather dramatic collapse for them to fail from here. Given their confident and care-free manner, such a downfall would appear unlikely.
This will not be an easy test, but it was far from plain sailing in their last game against Southampton, where they had to defend resolutely and escape more than the odd penalty claim before going on to edge it through a header from captain Wes Morgan. The central defender has been a heroic figure all season, and an instrumental factor behind their improved defensive record since the turn of the year. The Foxes are now becoming renowned from winning matches by a 1-0 scoreline.
Sebastian Larsson is pushing for a recall to the Sunderland starting line-up, while Allardyce’s only injured player remains young forward Duncan Watmore.
Leicester are likely to go unchanged yet again, but have Jeffrey Schlupp back following a knee injury.
Last Meeting: After a remarkable run of results had catapulted them up from a seemingly hopeless position, Leicester ensured Premier League safety with a goalless draw at Sunderland on the penultimate weekend of last season. It was a game of few chances, with Danny Graham firing straight at Kasper Schmeichel with the hosts’ best attempt, while Leonardo Ulloa came closest for the Foxes.