It might not sound the most glamorous clash on paper, but there’s no doubt that this will prove to be one of the most important encounters of the top flight weekend. With Sunderland positioned in 19th position and opponents Palace just three places higher in 16th, the result at the Stadium of Light may have massive repercussions on the final relegation situation.
Sunderland will actually be bitterly disappointed that they still find themselves battling in the bottom three, after they embarked on a march up the table following a superb run of form in the early portion of the year. However, having been involved in both domestic cups, they have played as many as three games less than some of their relegation rivals and this has unsurprisingly thrown them straight into the bottom three mix. There was plenty of optimism amongst all concerned following a 3-0 win over fierce rivals Newcastle at the start of February, but since then they have lost four of their last five matches. Still, all is not lost just yet and Gus Poyet will remind onlookers that his side have now lost just one of their last seven at home.
In some ways, Crystal Palace have tasted a very similar campaign to their opponents. There were times when the Eagles seemed to be completely written off for the drop, while there were other occasions that they had seemingly escaped the bottom cluster of teams. For now, their top flight survival must be ranked as touch-and-go, with the Selhurst Park outfit hovering just two points above the bottom three. Just like their opponents, they do hold at least one game in hand over some teams, but having won just one of their last five Pulis will be hoping that his side aren’t about to capitulate ahead of the most important period of the season.
Sunderland have been boosted tremendously ahead of this clash with Craig Gardner and Wes Brom both tipped to feature despite recent injury troubles. With Liam Bridcutt returning from ineligibility and Jozy Alitdore and Valentin Roberge available following illness, it would be fair to say that Gus Poyet has umpteen opportunities for this home encounter. It’s not quite the same for his opposite number though, with Crystal Palace still without Marouane Chamakh due to a hamstring complaint. On a more positive note, there should be places for Barry Bannan and Danny Gabbidon following their recent illnesses.
In terms of a prediction, we think that this is Sunderland’s game for the taking. The Black Cats have some reasonable home form to their name and with Crystal Palace missing their top scorer in Chamakh, our tip is going to be a slender 1-0 victory for Gus Poyet’s side.