The Opposition: Sunderland

The Gameplan
In his first few games in charge Steve Bruce seems to have adopted a strong, hard working side. His signings, in particular Cana and Cattermole, indicate the spine of the new look Sunderland. Both buys are tough tackling, no nonsense midfielders, who can also pass the ball. If Cattermole is fit, expect a lot of the game to be played out between them, and those two to be key players.

Strengths
As I mentioned the partnership of Cana and Cattermole gives us a powerful force in the middle, alongside the creative outlet in Malbranque, our midfield can be a big threat to teams. The strike force of Bent and Jones seems to have gelled quite nicely and quickly, with four goals between them. If those players are all on form then we can be a danger attacking.

Weaknesses
Our biggest problem, and it has been for some time, is in defence, whether it’s down to a lack of concentration, or just a lack of ability. Either way it was sloppy mistakes, or poor play at the back which dogged last season. Hopefully new signing, and former Hull man, Michael Turner, will be answer to this problem. However, another worry is the lack of depth to our side. Bruce has wasted no time in shifting some of our last manager’s poorer signings, but it leaves us worryingly short in some areas.

Injuries/Suspensions
There seems to be a few injuries which everyone is unsure about at the minute. Keeper Craig Gordon missed out for Scotland during the week. Number two goaly Fulop has a picked up a knock, and Cattermole has had a niggling injury.

Player by Player
Gordon/Fulop/Carson - Bit of a worry in this position. With Fulop and Gordon both pushing for fitness, we may have to rely on the untested Carson.

Bardsley - A hard working right back, who isn’t afraid to get forward and have a shot every now and then.
Turner - Hull fans will already know all about Turner. It will be interesting to see how he gets on on his debut against his old club.
Ferdinand - Anton is a worry in the defence. Can play an absolute blinder for 70 minutes, and then lose concentration for the last twenty minutes, which happened several times towards the end of last year.
Mensah - Another of Bruce’s new signings will hopefully make his debut. A strong centre back, who can also play as full back. He and Turner will hopefully be the answer to our defensive issues.

Malbranque - One of the main creative sparks in midfield. Some nice touches and a great passer of the ball. Two assists to his name already this season, a lot of our chances may come from his play.
Cana - The £5million signing from Marseille was handed the captaincy by Steve Bruce last month, and it’s his influence that will be at the heart of our performance and game come Saturday.
Cattermole - Signed for a second time by Steve Bruce this season, Cattermole is a dominate presence in the midfield. His tough tackling has been highlight by many, but his passing ability is something which is often overlooked.
Richardson - Another creative spark in midflield, however his performances so far season have been somewhat disappointing, looking absent or not interested for large periods of games. If Cattermole is out injured, I’d expect Richardson to be moved to a central role, and the new slim line Andy Reid to be brought in on the left.

Bent - Our record signing has started life at his new club in great fashion. Already endearing himself to the fans with his pace and neat finished, Bent could be the attacking force Sunderland have been missing for some time.
Jones - Has linked up well with Bent so far. A powerful forward, with a good first touch, if Kenwyne can improve his finishing, he and Bent will be a danger.

Martyn McFadden is editor of A Love Supreme