It might not look it on paper, but this clash could prove to be one of the most important of the Premier League weekend. Sunderland approach the game sat bottom of the league, five points from safety and nine away from their opponents. Having managed to crawl themselves away from the drop zone Norwich will therefore see this as a must-win encounter if they want to disassociate themselves with a relegation dogfight.
The fact that Sunderland only have nine points to their name may not bask their manager Gus Poyet in glory, but it would be fair to say that the Black Cats have improved since his reign began a couple of months ago. They have been exceptionally close in a lot of their encounters so far, with narrow defeats to Chelsea and Spurs highlighting that the club are only losing points by small margins. Supporters will have been disappointed to not pick up all of the points in their last match against West Ham, but anyone who attended that game will have noted how the Black Cats dominated for large periods and were desperately unlucky to only come away with a goalless draw. On the subject of recent games, the Stadium of Light outfit might be buoyed following their latest outing after knocking Chelsea out of the League Cup with a hard-earned 2-1 win on Tuesday.
Norwich on the other hand have managed to relieve a lot of pressure from the shoulders of their manager over the last few weeks. It wasn’t too long ago that Chris Hughton was tipped as the next manager to lose his job, only for the Canaries to embark on a run that has seen them take points off most of their relegation rivals. The club have beaten the likes of West Brom, Crystal Palace and West Ham over the last few weeks and such results mean that they now sit five points above the bottom three. However, even though they overcame West Brom at the Hawthorns just a couple of weeks ago, the fact that they have lost four of their last five on the road won’t give fans much optimism ahead of this trip to the North East.
Sunderland could approach this game with a couple of massive pieces of news, with Gus Poyet crossing his fingers for the fitness of two players. Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback have both returned to training this week, although it remains to be seen if Poyet will include them following the team’s positive result in the League Cup. It’s a similar story for Norwich as well, who also have two players returning from fitness concerns. Robert Snodgrass and Ricky van Wolfswinkel have recovered from respective toe and knee problems, having both spent recent months on the sidelines.
Nine points might separate these two outfits in the division, but we think Sunderland will get a rare win on Saturday. The Black Cats have looked promising over the last few weeks, while Norwich’s away form is overall quite poor. Bearing this in mind, our tip is a 2-0 victory for Gus Poyet’s side.