Reading Preview (H) - December 11
SUNDERLAND FACE Reading this evening in a re-arranged fixture after August's tie between the two sides was rained off.
The Black Cats have often pointed to the fact that they have a game in hand, and also the possible knock-on effect of not facing and beating the Berkshire side back in August.
Martin O'Neill heads into the game all-guns-blazing after stating that he is 'the only man' for the job following fresh criticism from former Mag Alan Shearer this morning.
"What do you do? So you go and put someone else in charge, he gets a group of 12, 13 games and can`t win any matches? It`s the same thing,' O'Neill told The Journal
"We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead - it might take us a few months to do that - and then we will see.
"If we are continuing for the next two years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then."
Sunderland slipped into the relegation zone after Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Chelsea at the Stadium of Light, and after 15 games, the Black Cats have just two league wins, one more than opponents Reading who are a place and four points below O'Neill's side.
It's been a sorry tale for the Lads, who have won just three of their last 25 Barclays Premier League fixtures, a run which would see any other manager under extreme pressure.
That O'Neill was the supporters' choice, a self-confessed Sunderland fan and working for a man, who in Ellis Short, says very little, has at least meant that the 60 year-old Ulsterman has only come under pressure from the media.
Contrast Sunderland's fortunes to that of Reading and the Royals' boss Brian McDermott does not appear to be under any pressure.
The former Arsenal man took over, initially on a caretaker basis, from Brendan Rodgers in 2009 and quickly took the Royals up the table before delivering a Play-Off final defeat to Rodger's Swansea City the following season.
Following that Play-Off final heartbreak, the 51 year-old delivered promotion last season, taking the Royals up automatically after a second-half of the season romp up the N.Power Championship table.
McDermott added just a handful of players to his squad over the summer with Adrian Mariappa (Watford), Garath McCleary (Forest), Chris Gunter (Forest), Nicky Shorey (West Brom), Stuart Taylor (Manchester City), Danny Guthrie (Newcastle) and Pavel Pogrebnyak (Zenit), the main additions.
In spite of the calibre of some of those additions, it's former Rotherham United centre-forward Adam Le Fondre who leads the club's scoring charts.
The Stockport-born 26 year-old is a real poacher, knocking in 54 goals in 96 games for the Millers having previously plundered 34 in 96 for Rochdale.
Winger Jimmy Kebe, defender Sean Morrison and Gunter are all doubts, whilst Jem Karacan and Pogrebnyak are both out.
Sunderland look likely to be without Steven Fletcher again, meaning Connor Wickham should continue up front.
Wes Brown and Lee Cattermole are also both out.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea (c), Cuellar, Rose; Larsson, Gardner; Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean; Wickham.
Reading: Federici; Cummings, Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey; Robson-Kanu, Tabb, Leigertwood, McAnuff (c); Le Fondre & Roberts.