Swansea City Preview (H) - January 29
SUNDERLAND host Capital One Cup finalists Swansea City this Tuesday in the Premier League.
The Swans are of course, Premier League darlings, and affirmed their status as such with a goalless draw against semi-finalists Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday night. The result of which saw them qualify for the League Cup final against Bradford City by an aggregate scoreline of 2-0.
Despite losing boss Brendan Rodgers to the glamorous position of Liverpool manager over the summer, Swans' chairman Huw Jenkins recruited wisely, bringing in Danish legend Michael Laudrup.
Laudrup, 46, was a superb player during a long playing career which saw him take in spells with the likes of Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Lazio and Ajax.
An attacking midfielder in his day, Laudrup was given the remit of continuing his predecessor's good work in continuing to establish the Welsh outfit in the Premier League. So far so good.
For all the plaudits Rodgers' Swnansea won, they were much less potent than Laudrup's side, who currently sit eighth in the Barclays Premier League and undoubtedly one of the most entertaining sides to watch in the top-flight.
The flowing passing football remains intact, with the emphasis on possession undiminished, yet this is a side which now others twice the threat going forward that they did last term.
That additional threat is in no small way down to the irrepressible form of £2m 'signing of the season', Michu.
Snapped up from La Liga outfit Rayo Vallecano for just £2m in the summer transfer window, Laudrup clearly leant on his experience managing Getafe in bringing in the 26 year-old.
Michu has recently extended his stay at the Liberty Stadium until 2016 - much to the delight of the club and it's supporters, but you get the feeling that this is a man destined to play at a higher level.
Thirteen goals in the Premier League and 16 goals in all competitions make the languid 6'1 frontman the Swan's top scorer, despite frequently occupying the 'number 10' role behind the out-and-out striker.
The Oviedo-born hitman has also impressed up front though, keeping Sunderland target Danny Graham out of the picture as a result. Indeed, the Gatesheas-born striker has made just 10 Premier League starts this term as a result.
Another player recruited thanks to Laudrup's explicit knowledge of Spanish football is Dutch midfielder, Jonathan de Guzman.
The 25 year-old midfielder joined on a season-long loan from Villarreal following their relegation from La Liga and has wasted no time in proving himself in a different league.
A classy, cultured user of the ball, the 5'9 central midfielder was actually born in Canada but gained Dutch citizenship in 2008, subsequently winning four Dutch U21 caps.
De Guzman has weighed in with goals too - five in the league - despite being recruited with the primary objective of protecting the back four and starting attacks.
Formerly of Feyenoord and Mallorca, it was with the latter that Laudrup and de Guzman were first acquainted during the 2010-11 season when the Dane recruited the Dutchman from the Eredivisie.
Sunderland are without Lee Cattermole (knee), whilst there has been talk of a return for Wes Brown. Kader Mangane is still building his fitness up.
Swansea are without Neil Taylor (broken ankle) and Kemy Augustien (ankle).
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea (c), Bramble, Colback; Larsson, N'Diaye, Vaughan, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Swansea City: Vorm; Rangel, Monk (c), Williams, Davies; Ki, de Guzman; Hernandez, Michu, Routledge; Shectar.
Referee: Mr A Marriner.