Often Partisan

Unlucky for the Black Cats?

Blues can take another massive step to survival with a win against the Black Cats of Sunderland tomorrow, whilst pushing former manager Steve Bruce’s charges into a relegation dogfight. Whilst the game doesn’t have the same “must win” feeling of the last home match against Bolton, there is the sense that defeat would properly drop us back into trouble.

Last season’s corresponding fixture marked the start of an impressive 12 month unbeaten home record in the Premiership, and Blues must be hoping that once again that this game can help kickstart a revival in fortunes at St Andrews. Sunderland however look like a team that are in free-fall, having lost seven in their last eight games; scoring just seven goals and conceding twenty-one. Their squad is massively depleted due to injuries, and Steve Bruce must be anxiously looking over his shoulder as the chasing pack close in on his team in the fight for Premiership survival.

Of course, with all this in mind most Blues fans feel that they know how tomorrow will see nothing but a Sunderland win; to many fans Blues seem to have a knack of helping teams end poor runs. Whilst it does feel like that, I don’t think it’s true. I think this is a game Blues could and should win, and this is how we’re going to do it.

As you can see from the chalkboard against West Brom, Sunderland are a team that likes to get it wide and cross it in. When they play short passes they’re pretty good, and they’ll get the ball to the flank to attack. However, when they’re forced to resort to the long game it all goes a bit to pot – against WBA there is a massive gap in successful passes anywhere in the middle of the final third. Thus it’s imperative we shut down their wingers, and stop them from getting dangerous balls in.

Secondly, looking at tackles they lost on the ground against Man City it would appear that they’re not good at the back when put under pressure. Three of those challenges on the right side of defence were lost by Michael Turner, and I think Cameron Jerome needs to target pressurising him when he’s on the ball to try and catch him in possession. Pressing teams is something we can be good at home, and it’s vital we press them as high up the pitch as we can.

Thirdly, it’s all about attitude. Against Bolton Blues went out with an attitude of wanting to win the game, and started immediately pressing the Trotters up the pitch. We’ve got to do this again; be attacking from the off and get the crowd behind the team. A few meaty challenges will get the fans onside, and couple that with some early pressure on the Sunderland goal and we’ll be fine.

Team-wise, Blues have more players coming back to fitness with Beausejour and Bentley available for selection this week; Zigic is however a major doubt and Jiranek and Martins are both definitely out. I think Blues will have to look at bringing in either our Chilean winger or the on-loan Bentley on the left to give us a bit more of a balanced look – but that will mean dropping either Bowyer or Gardner and neither particularly deserve it. Phillips and Jerome should start up top together, and there is maybe an argument to play Davies and Johnson in the middle and Ridgewell at left back, although again Stuart Parnaby didn’t do too much wrong whilst he had the shirt.

I was spot on with my prediction last week, and I’m hoping that I will be again, because I think Blues will win this; morale at Sunderland is low and a fired up Blues team should be too much for them. I reckon a 2-1 win, with Jerome to score in front of the Tilton.

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