Stadium of Light, Sunderland
January 07, 2013; 19:45 BST
Sunderland host Manchester United at the Stadium of light in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final clash tomorrow. Manchester United have already travelled to this stadium earlier this season in the league and went home with three points as Adnan Januzaj scored a wonderful brace to complete the comeback. The Red Devils have had the upper hand in the meetings between these two sides in recent years, in fact Sunderland haven’t won against Manchester United in their last 20 games in all competitions. Gus Poyet will be desperate to change this trend and they are probably facing United at the perfect time for this.
Team news and tactics
Sunderland are at the bottom of the table, but they have been on better run of form off late. In fact the Black Cats have lost only once in their last seven matches in all competitions, which includes a shock win against Chelsea in the last round of the League Cup. Gus Poyet has steadied things at the Stadium of lights since his arrival, but there are a lot of things that Sunderland still needs to improve upon in order to get out of the relegation zone. The League Cup could have acted as an unwanted distraction in this situation, but now they are only one win away from reaching the final and Sunderland would want to make the most of it. Moreover, the fact that they have already caused an upset in their last round against Chelsea will provide them with immense confidence going into this fixture.
Sunderland did face against Aston Villa in their last Premier League encounter, but are coming into this game on the back of a good win over Carlisle in the FA Cup as Adam Johnson and El Hadji Ba scored for the home side.
Gus Poyet does have a lot of injury concerns at the moment, especially at the back. Carlos Cuellar, Keiren Westwood, Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge are all out of contention for this game with injuries. There are also huge concerns about the fitness of John O’Shea, although he is expected to recover in time to face his former side.
Ki Sung-Yueng, who deputised at the back in the FA Cup win over Carlisle, will move back into the midfield as John O’Shea returns to the center of the defence alongside Wes Brown. Dossena will start at left-back on place of Bardsley. It will also be interesting to see the formation that Gus Poyet adopts for this game. He used a 4-1-4-1 formation against Cardiff and then switched to a 4-3-3 formation in the defeat against Aston Villa. So it is likely that he will once again switch back to the 4-1-4-1 for this game with Lee Cattermole sitting in front of the defence.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Mannone (GK); Dossena, O’Shea, Brown, Celustka; Cattermole; Giaccherini, Gardner, Larsson, Johnson; Altidore
Manchester United are currently seventh in the league table and 11 points behind league leaders Arsenal. They produced some good results in December and were on a seven match winning streak, which ended with a 1-2 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. But now they have faced two back to back defeats and were knocked out of the FA Cup at the hands of Swansea City. Perhaps more disappointingly for David Moyes, it was his side’s fourth home defeat in their last six games at Old Trafford – a ground which used to be a fortress in the Ferguson era. Their away form has been pretty good though and they are undefeated in their last 11 games on the road in all competitions.
After the FA Cup exit, it is imperative that Manchester United put up a good performance against Sunderland as another exit will not be accepted kindly among the fans, who are already unsettled after the recent performances.
David Moyes’ cause hasn’t been helped by the long injury list he has had to deal at the moment. Robin van Persie, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Rafael and Nani are still out of contention for this game. Rio Ferdinand limped off against Swansea and has now joined this list. Fabio will also miss this game due to suspension after picking up a red card in the FA Cup game. Wayne Rooney was deemed unfit to participate in the match against Swansea and their doubts about his availability for this game as well.
Manchester United are expected to make as many as fove changes to the side that lost against Swansea. Nemanja Vidic will replace the injured Ferdinand at the center of the defence, while Michael Carrick returns to the center of the midfield. Anderson is likely to get a rare start alongside Carrick, although Moyes might also prefer the experience of Giggs. Januzaj, who came on as a substitute in the second half in the last game, is expected to start on the left. Patrice Evra will replace Buttner at the left back.
Expected starting line-up (4-4-2): Lindegaard (GK); Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Anderson, Januzaj; Welbeck, Hernandez
Players to watch-out for: Adam Johnson (Sunderland); Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)
Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United