Last season this was a key fixture in the whole relegation showdown, with both of these sides fighting for their lives. Sunderland were the only team to survive that battle, whereas Fulham dropped to the Championship. Now, both teams have the chance to measure their progress and see how they are faring in this FA Cup showdown this weekend.
Gus Poyet may have masterminded that terrific survival story last season, but whether or not he manages the same for a second campaign in succession remains to be seen. The Black Cats started the current season in flying fashion, but since then their form has dropped. It means that they now sit just one point above the bottom three and if anything, this FA Cup distraction could be a good opportunity to build confidence and get their house in order. If we look to recent form, the club have now lost their last three games in the league – with their only positive result being a 1-0 win over Leeds in the FA Cup. That victory has also been their only win on home soil since the start of October – which could give Fulham a terrific opportunity this weekend.
Judging by Fulham’s recent form, they might be in the ideal position to take this chance as well. The Cottagers may have started the campaign in dismal style, leading to the dismissal of Felix Magath, but over recent weeks they have experienced an upturn in form. They’ve won their last two games, three if you count their victory over Wolves on penalties in the previous round of this competition, and confidence is slowly returning to Craven Cottage. Admittedly, there is still a long way to go, but with the club sat in 14th position and ten points away from the playoffs – the cup could be the ideal platform for them to record at least some success this term.
In terms of team news, there could be a whole host of changes to the Sunderland team this weekend with Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole and Adam Johnson all poised to miss out through injury. On a more positive note, Liam Bridcutt could feature in some capacity following suspension, while there should be a starting place for Jermain Defoe who is poised to make his home debut. Fulham on the other hand are unlikely to risk Scott Parker, who is suffering from an ankle problem sustained in the game against Nottingham Forest during the week. There should be a place for Lasse Vigen Christensen though, who has now fully recovered from his spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
If we turn to a prediction, we get the feeling that this match could go to a replay. Sunderland might hold the home advantage and be a division superior to their opponents, but Fulham have impressed through recent weeks and could be good enough for a 1-1 scoreline.