Sunderland vs. Tottenham: Preview and Team News Ahead of Saturday's Clash

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

After Manchester City's third consecutive 1-0 loss at the Stadium of Light, the latest of which came on Boxing Day, the reigning Premier League champions will be in no rush to return to Sunderland anytime soon.

Tottenham Hotspur experienced a similar sense of frustration on their last trip to Wearside, when a 0-0 draw in April of last season further damaged their prospects of Champions League football.

But off the back of beating Aston Villa 4-0 earlier this week, Andre Villas-Boas' men will be keen to follow it up with another victory as they go for a top-four place again this time around—and should they slay a few demons against the Mackems, then so be it.

With Chelsea putting eight past Villa a couple of days earlier, it is difficult to evaluate how much of Tottenham's own victory was because of their doing or their opponent's ineptness.

While the latter certainly aided the display, it is the former who should be credited.

The performance was typified somewhat by Gareth Bale's own—the Welshman's devastating hat-trick saw him once again being heralded as world football's shining new star.

Spurs and Bale may still have their flaws—they were seen for both in last Saturday's 0-0 with Stoke City—but the signs are there that each are getting better and may not be far off from achieving something significant.

Bale's march to this point may be unstoppable if his progression so far is anything to go by, but if Spurs are to achieve their ambitions this season and beyond, their journey will be a lot trickier to navigate.

Sunderland are one such obstacle.

For all of the Black Cats' troubles so far this term, the benefit of winning three out of four games (the only loss coming at Manchester United) is that a team's prospects can appear to change almost overnight.

They are closer to the top half than they are the relegation zone now, and have seen hints in recent weeks of better form from their go-to creative outlets Adam Johnson and James McClean, as well as a greater sense of organization and adherence to a gameplan overall.

Seven draws so far suggest their campaign could have been a different story entirely, but now they are proving they might be capable of writing a more positive tale for themselves.

The meeting with Tottenham means Martin O'Neill will be without full-back Danny Rose who cannot play against his parent club—a disappointment for the manager, considering the good form he has helped coax out of the England Under-21 international this season.

Phil Bardsley replaced Rose for the final few minutes of the Man City game and will likely start in his place here.

Barring injury or illness prior to the game, Sunderland are likely to be otherwise unchanged.

Villas-Boas may have Tom Huddlestone and Clint Dempsey to choose from after injury saw them miss the last fortnight's action, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto may be ready to return to the fold after recovering from the knee injury that has seen him miss most of the season so far.

The Spurs' boss has plenty of options and may contemplate making a couple of changes in order to rest a couple of his players with a busy week still to come following this match.

Scott Parker has seen action from the substitutes bench in each of Tottenham's last three games and may be called upon to fill in for Moussa Dembele or (more likely) Sandro.

Though Villas-Boas will be loathe to rest either of the midfield pairing who performed so well, the Brazilian in particular could do with a break having played so many games.

Kyle Naughton played on his weaker side of left-back against Aston Villa but may make way with the greater threat he is likely to face on the Sunderland flanks.

Whether it is Assou-Ekotto or Jan Vertonghen taking his place probably depends on how ready the former is for action, with the decision made almost certain to have an impact on Tottenham's central-defense pairing.

Michael Dawson may replace William Gallas in order to deal with the threat posed by Steven Fletcher, with Villas-Boas' decision possibly indicating his preferred choices for the centre-back now that he has so many players to call upon in this position and others.

Tottenham will be of hopeful of putting some wins together after a semi-inconsistent few weeks for the North London club, but a confident Sunderland team will ensure they have no easy afternoon's work.


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