Writer: Gary Johnson
Date:Thursday December 10 2009
Stadium of Light
It has been billed by Steve Bruce as the 'biggest game of the season' and that has been forced due to woeful defeats against Wigan and Fulham.
We find ourselves hoping for points at home rather than expecting them as Pompey arrive on Wearside looking to get off the bottom of the league.
We need to silence some of the doubters and show we can dispatch lesser quality teams and not simply rely on Darren Bent to get us out of any tricky situations.
The game is going to be hard due to the fact we have over 6 players missing through injuries and suspensions but we have enough quality to win this game if we approach it correctly.
'As far as I am concerned it's our biggest game of the season.
'We've put ourselves under a bit of pressure with two straight defeats so we have to make sure we hit our form very early in the game.
'We have to change mentally away from home and that's something we're looking at in terms of personnel if I keep getting the same repeated performances.'
Sunderland have major injury problems as five regular defenders are either injured or suspended this weekend.
Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson both picked up their fifth booking of the season last weekend and will miss through a one game ban.
Anton Ferdinand has been ruled out for 4 weeks, and there is also major doubts for John Mensah and George McCartney as they struggle to reach fitness in time.
Bolo Zenden has been ruled out with a tweaked hamstring in training yesterday.
Young prospect Ryan Noble has been called into the senior squad after he scored another hat-trick for the youths during the week and will be looking for his first team start.
We are relying heavily on Bent's goal scoring record to continue as we look to get over a bad few weeks away from home this season. Bent has been quite as of late and will look to bounce back against basement club Pompey as long as he is given the correct service from midfield and Kenwyne Jones.
James returns from injury to replace Asmir Begovic and Younes Kaboul could return also from suspension.
James is looking likely to return to action after missing the last four games through injury. He needs to be in good form as Bent and Jones will be looking to break the ice at the earliest moment possible. James has class but can be prone to making to occasional mistake, let's hope one of his 'calamity' moments is against us on Saturday.
Sunderland have not lost at home since August and have now went seven games without defeat.
Pompey have lost none of their last three Premier League trips to play in the North East.
1 - 1 This will be a massive game for Bruce and his under performing players and we cannot simply rely on our impressive home form to keep us away from any problems. This game should have been a home banker a few weeks ago but with a very small squad we will be hoping to get at least a point this weekend.
Sunderland play Aston Villa on Tuesday in the Premier league.
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Date:Thursday December 10 2009
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