Jan 17, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
- Sunderland haven’t lost to Southampton since 2003.
- The clubs drew opening day at St. Mary’s.
- Black Cats worse at home (2W-1D-7L) than on road
Really, it’s a tale of two teams who’ve dealt with controversy this week and this year to varying degrees (Watch at 7:45am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra).. Sunderland are coming off a 4-1 win, have nearly escaped the drop zone and have League Cup success under their belts, but have already endured a manager change in addition to firing their director of football today.
Southampton started off a movie-like run in this year’s Premier League season only to have this week’s controversial departure of Nicola Cortese put a cap on recent on-field struggles. He left amidst a power struggle with the team owner, leaving Saints supporters terrified that Mauricio Pochettino would fulfill his promise to leave if Cortese departed (He didn’t).
Thanks the huddled masses at the bottom half of the table, Southampton’s recent struggles still see them in ninth place. The Saints are seven points ahead of No. 10 Hull City and just three behind Newcastle. Yes, they’re just 2-1-3 in their last six, but the losses have come against Spurs, Everton and Everton.
The controversial owner, by the way, is Katherine Liebherr and she’s said no one’s leaving in the transfer window. Wonder how much comfort that is to supporters as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana‘s names continue to be bandied about on a daily basis in the rumor mill?
How trying has this year been for Sunderland? Poyet joked that the three-goal win over Fulham was the only time he’s not worried about stoppage time since he’s gotten the job. Adam Johnson provided the hat trick and is starting to get England talk again. Surely a strong showing against Lallana and company would go a long way for Roy Hodgson.
Sunderland’s 9 points in their last six games give them Top 8 form, and the Stadium of Light should be rocking for the Black Cats opportunity to say “Peace” to the relegation zone, at least for a week.
Look out for Southampton after the break, as Sunderland has a dreadful minus-6 goal differential from the 46th-60th minute of matches this season.
The Saints haven’t beaten Sunderland since seizing the season series in 2002/03. Sunderland went 1-1-0 when both teams were in the Championship in 2006/07, while they have a win and two draws in PL play since Southampton were promoted in 2012. Sunderland also knocked the Saints out of the League Cup on Nov. 6 at the Stadium of Light.
What They’re Saying
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on Southampton: “ It’s a difficult game against a difficult team. They have a solid system of play, quick, technical players and some power. It is one of those games where we need to be really spot on. We need a little bit more than normal. Saying that there’s no excuses, we are in a situation where we can go and put on another good performance and get another victory, which would be amazing.”
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino on dealing with Cortese’s departure: “It’s hard to predict what is going to be the effect on the players. It’s clear that it may affect the players as they all have varying degrees of relationship with Nicola Cortese, and of course his leaving may affect us in some way. In those situations it’s clear that maybe some minds will be focused on what happened yesterday [Wednesday] rather than on Sunderland on Saturday, but we have to be professional. We have to be fully focused on the game on Saturday and as always, to try and get a positive result.”
Look for the Saints to give their supporters a lift at the Stadium of Light. I’m not buying Poyet’s charges just yet and Lallana has been a devastating force to oppositions in recent weeks (Imagine those fantasy footballers who bought him at 6.0 pounds to see his value at 7.5 now. Who would be so smart, so deft?). Southampton 3, Sunderland 1.
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