Swansea City Preview - Home, January 21
PREMIER LEAGUE surprise package Swansea City make the long trip up to the North East from South Wales this Saturday looking to build on their stunning 3-2 triumph over Arsenal.
Brendan Rodgers' outfit have often been regarded as something of an 'Arsenal lite' this term, in the same way the Gunners have been dismissed as 'Barca lite' in the past.
But that doesn't mean the Swans should be underestimated ahead of their visit.
Former Reading and Watford gaffer Rodgers preaches the beautiful game and so far the Swans have been able to implement their style effectively on the Premier League.
Setup to retain the ball and counter dangerously, Rodgers understands his sides limitations and by moving the ball around their own third for large chunks of the game, the Ulsterman is preventing the more established opposition from dominating the game.
Critical to the game plan are good ball players - players like Leon Britton.
The 29 year-old midfielder is in his second spell at the Liberty Stadium having left to join Sheffield United on a free transfer in 2010. The 5'5' midfielder is the shortest in the Premier League but can boast the best pass completion percentage in Europe's top-five leagues - better than the likes of Xavi or Andres Iniesta.
Another key midfield man is Scott Sinclair, a man Rodgers knew well when he brought him to the Liberty last seasons.
Signed from Chelsea where Rodgers had been his youth coach, the England U21 international bedded in quickly, scoring 27 league and cup goals in 50 appearances. Pacey and direct, the winger had previously spent loan spells with Plymouth, Charlton, Birmingham and Wigan.
The Swans have swooped for two creative midfielders on loan deals during the January Transfer Window. Gylfi Sigurdsson arrived from Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim whilst Josh McEachran has been lent out by Chelsea.
Both have worked with Rodgers before, Sigurdsson moving to Germany after his gaffer had left his post at Reading. The 22 year-old Icelandic midfielder has been out with injury and will use his temporary spell in in South Wales to get back to full fitness. A goalscorer from midfielder, Sigurdsson nabbed 18 in 36 league starts for the Royals.
McEachran is something of an unknown quantity having featured scarcely for Chelsea where he is highly-rated by the coaching staff. The 18 year-old England youth cap has 11 appearances for the Blues; 10 of which have been from the bench.
The Jacks are without just two players - defender Alan Tate (broken leg) and Ferrie Bodde (knee).
Martin O'Neill is without Matt Kilgallon (ankle), Jack Colback (ankle), Wes Brown (groin) and Titus Bramble (calf). Frazier Campbell and Craig Gordon could be fit enough to make the 18.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson; Larsson, Cattermole (c), Vaughan, McClean; Sessegnon; Bendtner.
Swansea City: Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Caulker, Taylor; Dyer, Allen, Agustein, Britton, Sinclair; Graham.