PREVIEW: Sunderland vs City

Sunderland vs Manchester City, Wednesday, 26 December, Stadium of Light

Tickets: Sold out. Some tickets remain in the home end, priced from £32 for adults. For information, visit http://www.safc.com/tickets/tickets

Last Season: 1-0

Referee: Kevin Friend; Assistants: A Halliday, G Beswick. Fourth official: K Wright.

Team News:

CITY – Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy are struggling to make it and Samir Nasri is definitely out. Vincent Kompany should start after returning to the bench for the Reading match, while Mario Balotelli is back from illness.

City (from): Hart, Pantilimon, Wright, Zabaleta, Maicon, Lescott, Kompany, K Toure, Nastasic, Rekik, Kolarov, Clichy, Milner, Barry, Y Toure, Garcia, Silva, Sinclair, Aguero, Tevez, Balotelli, Dzeko, Razak.

SUNDERLAND – Adam Johnson is a doubt with a dead leg, as is Sebastian Larsson who has a knee injury.

Sunderland (from): Mignolet, Westwood, Bardsley, Kilgallon, O’Shea, Cuellar, Bramble, Rose, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Larsson, Johnson, Vaughan, Sessegnon, Meyler, Saha, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Fletcher.

Stats:

Sunderland won this fixture 1-0 at home for the second successive season on New Year’s Day 2012, courtesy of Ji Dong-Won’s stoppage-time winner. However, those are their only wins in their last 15 games against Manchester City (W2, D2, L11).

There has not been a goalless draw between these sides in the league since 1938.

Steven Fletcher has scored eight goals from only 15 shots on target in the Premier League this season. He has opened the scoring in more matches (six) than any other player.

Sunderland are attempting to register back-to-back home wins for the first time since March.

City have played 13 PL matches on Boxing Day and are unbeaten in their last 5 on this day.

City are the only Premier League side still unbeaten in away matches this season (W4, D4). They have gone 11 away games without defeat since a 1-0 loss at Arsenal in April.

City have scored the most goals in the final 30 minutes of league games this season (21) and the final 15 minutes of matches (11).

Matija Nastasic has played 90 minutes in 6 of the 7 Premier League games in which City have kept a clean sheet this season.

Stats courtesy of BBC Football & Opta City

Press Conference:

Sergio Aguero has been speaking to the press ahead of the game. He believes that Adam Johnson would pose a great threat to City’s chances of getting all 3 points if the winger is passed fit to play.

Adam is a great player and a teammate until recently. He knows us and we know him. It will be weird to have him as a rival, but we are all professionals and that won’t affect our game – as usual, we’ll go out for a win. We beat them earlier in the season but no game is identical to another, and besides, the Premier League is nothing but tough matches.

This is a very competitive tournament and that’s why it’s one of the best in the world. We are all looking for the win and if you let your guard down, it may be snatched away from you.

Martin O’Neill spoke in detail about his side’s effort in the two games against City last season, where they took 4 points off us, including a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture that saw a late, late goal from Ji Dong-won.

O’Neill said:

It was a terrific effort last season – the spirit was fantastic and there’s still plenty of that here, as we showed at the weekend. We’ll need spirit and plenty more besides to prevent Manchester City from getting on the scoresheet. They are a top-quality team who won the title last season and will be there or thereabouts again.

City have some great players at their disposal and we’ll have to utilise everything we have here to try and eke out a result. We did well to win here last season and then played probably our best football of the season in the 3-3 draw down there. That said, they beat us convincingly early in the season after getting an early goal. That settled them down. They played very well that day and are capable of dominating for long periods.

Inside the Opposition:

Don’t miss our brilliant interview with Sunderland blogger Simon Walsh, who writes for Roker Report.

I was also interviewed in return, check that out here.

Fixtures:

All matches kick-off at 3pm unless otherwise stated.

Everton vs Wigan

Fulham vs Southampton

Manchester United vs Newcastle

Norwich vs Chelsea

QPR vs West Brom

Reading vs Swansea

Sunderland vs Manchester City

Aston Villa vs Tottenham (17.30)

Stoke City vs Liverpool (19.45)

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