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Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Sunderland — High drama at the bottom

Dec 27, 2013, 12:43 PM EDT

Everton v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images
  •  Teams haven’t met since 2006/07 in the Championship
  •  Cardiff holds all-time edge, 25W-16D-20L
  •  Sunderland on three-match PL points run (1W-2D)

The table’s lower half is featuring almost exclusively on Saturday and perhaps relegation scrap will carry as much drama as Sunderland’s visit to Cardiff City Stadium, especially in the wake of Malky Mackay’s sacking by controversial City owner Vincent Tan (watch live on NBC, 12:30pm ET, and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

To wit: How many times have Sunderland walked into a match as the side under less supporter scrutiny?

Truly, the Black Cats are doing some work in the Premier League after their nightmare start under Paolo di Canio. Sunderland made a big splash with its 2-1 derby win over rivals Newcastle on Oct. 27 and boast PL wins over Manchester City and Everton to go with an active run into the final four of the League Cup (which will find them home-and-away with Manchester United on Jan. 7 and 22).

It’s been a while since Sunderland could taste a group of match day scenarios that could bring them out of the relegation zone, even with Wes Brown still suspended. John O’Shea could be back in the fold for the Black Cats, who will still be without Kieren Westwood and Carlos Cuellar.

Yet here comes 16th place Cardiff amid controversy. They’ve scored the second-fewest goals in the PL (13), coincidentally tied with Sunderland. Frazier Campbell and Jordon Mutch are tied for the team-lead in goals with just three, while Peter Whittingham has two goals while leading the team in shots (33) and assists (4). The Bluebirds are pretty healthy save for Craig Bellamy, but that hasn’t helped in recent weeks.

For what it’s worth, both teams went into each other’s homes and won in 2006/07.

What they’re saying

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan on the sacking of Malky Mackay: “There has been a good deal of publicity generated by and about Mr Malky Mackay over the last few months. Indeed far too much dirty linen has been exposed to the public gaze. But, I stress, not by me. Indeed, I have deliberately not responded to this, hoping that the Club can be judged on its football rather than personalised arguments about who said what to whom.”

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on thriving under the radar: “People keep forgetting we are unbeaten in four games – we’re playing well. It’s up to us to keep that belief going. Cardiff will be difficult. They are fighting for their lives but we need to make sure we’re ready and perform to the best of our ability.”

Prediction

It’d be a dicey proposition to say Cardiff City will come into this game well put together and Sunderland has taken points from three-straight road matches. It’s also difficult to predict how any club will respond to a managerial change. I’m going to peg Sunderland to escape from the bottom this week with a 2-1 win.

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