Relegation-threatened Sunderland host Manchester United this weekend, as both teams hunt for points for entirely different reasons. Sunderland find themselves deep in trouble, as they are 4 points from safety. Sunderland have only won once in their last five games, losing two and drawing the other two. Last weekend they came back from 2 goals behind, netting twice in the last 10 minutes to shock Liverpool at Anfield. Sunderland have the worst defensive record in the Premier League, having conceded 49 goals so far this season. Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce (Big Sam) has been very critical of the way his side has defended since he took over as manager, he has openly said if they don’t change it will be tough for them to avoid the trap door. Allardyce used the January transfer window to bring in some new blood and move on some of the deadwood within the squad. Former Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe has been Sunderland’s main goal threat, having netted ten goals in 21 games so far this season. Sunderland will need Defoe to carry on in his rich vein of form, as his goals have been priceless so far this season. Defoe will have a new strike partner for the rest of the season; Dame N’Doye joined on loan for the remainder of the season from Trabzonspor. We saw N’Doye this time last season when he joined Hull City on the same sort of deal. Then N’Doye scored five goals in 11 games for Hull, if he can have the same impact on Sunderland, then they may have a chance of clawing their way out of trouble.
It has been a very turbulent season so far for Manchester Utd. In the lead up to Christmas we were talking about them having a chance of winning the title, but since then the wheels have somewhat come off their challenge. Now they have slipped out of the reckoning for the title, and now face an uphill task to qualify for the Champions League. They trail bitter rivals Manchester City by 6 points, who are currently in fourth place. The Old Trafford faithful seem to have lost patience with manager Louis van Gaal, the manager has come in for plenty of flack over the last few months about his style of play. The Dutchman is happy for his side just to keep the ball, rather than playing on the front foot. The boos have rung round Old Trafford on more than one occasion this season, with fans and ex-players calling for the Dutchman to leave his post at the club. Of late results have improved for Utd, and they have only lost once in their last five games, they were beaten at home by Southampton thanks to a goal from Charlie Austin. Last week Manchester Utd looked set to beat champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but were pegged back in injury time when Diego Costa netted a late goal. Utd captain Wayne Rooney seems to be finding his best form after a slow start to the season, Rooney has now netted seven goals in his last eight games. This is a game Manchester Utd will need to win if they are to catch the top 4.
Sunderland will need to give a late check to key stars ahead of the visit of Manchester Utd. Younes Kaboul (groin) Duncan Watmore (ankle) Fabio Borini (Illness) all have a 75% chance of making it this weekend. Dame N’Doye is expected to partner Jermain Defoe in attack as Sunderland look to build on the point last week.
Manchester Utd have mounting injury problems. Bastian Schweinsteiger is out with a knee problem and looks set to miss at least another four weeks. Marcos Rojo (shoulder) could miss the rest of the season. Ashley Young has had surgery on a groin problem, and won’t been seen again until next season. Luke Shaw has given Utd fans hope that he may play again this season after he was included in their Europa League squad. Shaw broke his leg in September, and many thought that his season was over, now there is hope he may even go to Euro 2016 with England. Phil Jones could return from a foot problem that has kept him sidelined for the last four games.
This is a game that you would expect Manchester Utd to win. In recent weeks and at Chelsea, Utd played a lot more on the front foot, and looked a lot better for it. As an attacking force, Utd committed more bodies forward and looked like they could score goals, something that has been lacking at times this season. Here are my betting predictions for the game and our football betting tips
Manchester Utd win 3/4
Manchester Utd win and under 2.5 13/5
Manchester Utd 2-0- 7/1
Guest article by Phil Barrs of SBAT.com