Opposing View: Bolton Wanderers
First of all, how has life under Dougie Freedman treated Bolton so far?
It's had its ups and downs, but this is entirely to be expected when a new manager comes in with a completely different system. Freedman has turned the club upside down: new training regime, new formation, new philosophy, which is something Bolton needed, but obviously it hasn't come smoothly.
There have been some excellent performances from the team, especially from the defence which was unspeakably leaky before.
Overall, Bolton is on track and I'm happy with where the club is going.
How seriously will Bolton be taking the F.A Cup?
It's hard to tell, as this will be Dougie's first cup game in charge, but my guess would be that you'll be seeing a full strength side (after all, Dougie's had success in cups before.
A big complaint from clubs is that cups take up valuable match time, but when playing in the Championship, there are so many matches anyway that it hardly seems to matter.
A good cup run is always an excellent way to build confidence, and I hope that Bolton are able to do just that.
Sunderland in the Cup - how has that draw gone down with the Reebok faithful?
If I'm honest, it was not greeted with much excitement by Bolton fans. It was seen as a draw that won't be easy, but at the same time might not be terribly interesting either.
I would not be shocked if the travelling contingent rivalled the home crowd.
Who will be your key player on Saturday?
Jay Spearing has a good shout for this role. Dougie Freedman plays his teams in a 4-2-3-1 formation, putting two defensive midfielders behind a creative triangle to form the midfield.
This means that all attacks need to come off the solid base of the back two. Spearing has stepped into this role really well, giving the Wanderers a lot of confident possession and continuity, something that was rare under Owen Coyle.
One player you'd drive to his next club & why?
I would happily escort Benik Afobe back whence he came (Arsenal).
He was advertised as a young, pacy forward, but in most of his appearances for the Wanderers he barely registered on the pitch. In the 19 games he's been involved in he has scored 2 goals and taken 11 shots, meaning he takes just a little over 1 shot every 2 games.
The numbers speak for themselves really. In spite of this he somehow still gets selected over the similar striker we actually paid money for (Marvin Sordell). It has been one of the most frustrating things about the team selection this season.
One Sunderland player you'd poach given the chance?
The obvious answer to this is Stephen Fletcher. Bolton are missing (and have been for a very long time) a reliable striker.
The closest we have right now is Kevin Davies, but he's getting on and his role is much more complex than an out-and-out striker.
Any injuries or suspensions to contend with?
We have got a few long term injuries that are pretty major. The big ones include Stuart Holden, who is getting closer and closer to making a first team return from his lengthy spell out with a knee injury, but will play at least one more reserve match before he steps up with the big boys again.
Mark Davies is also out, with a shoulder injury, sadly just as he was coming into his own as a player. Defender David Wheater has a knee injury and will be missing out for quite some time, which has made the defence shakier.
Are you anticipating any January business?
Yes, although a lot depends on how much money the club is willing to put up and how creative Dougie Freedman can get.
We're already quite close to signing Barnsley striker Craig Davies on the cheap which would be a good addition to the squad in an area that needs it.
It will be interesting to see exactly how Freedman moulds the squad and makes it his own. If Bolton are to retain any hope of immediate promotion to the Premier League (which I do think is probably unrealistic at this point), this period and the following months will be vital, and hopefully Dougie can make them count.
We're coming off the back of a dreadful 1-0 loss to Leeds away, so I'm going to be optimistic and say we'll get our act together for this match. 2-1 to the Wanderers.
Thanks Matilda. Make sure to check out the Lion of Vienna Suite for Bolton-related opinion.