Hardly the glamour fixture of the weekend but this match could be the defining moment for both these teams in terms of Premier League survival.
Currently sitting next to each other in the league Sunderland are three points behind the Canaries in 15th but a win will lift them above their relegation rivals.
Whilst the Black Cats are still six points clear of the relegation zone they will know that teams have been dragged into relegation fights from higher positions so every point is vital at this stage.
Sunderland go into this match in extremely poor form without a win since mid-January including last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to bottom of the table QPR. A dreadful performance from Sunderland has left many wondering if they could indeed go down. Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill knows this is a vitally important game given some of their upcoming fixtures.
After this Sunderland host league leaders Manchester United before trips to European champions Chelsea and the derby against Newcastle at St James Park. For Norwich whilst the results are a little better (only one defeat in the last six) the reality is their form has taken a huge turn. In the middle of the December the Canaries were sitting in seventh position in the league but now they are slipping closer and closer to the relegation zone.
Chris Hughton knows that the next few games are going to be vital if his team are going to stay in the Premier League for a third season.
Going into Sunday’s clash it is the men between the two sticks who are impressing for two teams who are normally short of goals. Last month Simon Mignolet won the 2012 north-east football writers association’s player of the year narrowly edging out Newcastle due Hatem Ben Arfa and Tim Krul. It is a testament to the Belgian’s performances over the last twelve months and whilst various members of Sunderland’s squad have been under-performing he is the one player that Martin O’Neill has been able to rely upon.
For Norwich the long term injury suffered by England international John Ruddy was initially seen by many as a potential season breaker but that was before Mark Bunn announced himself. The 28-year-old was initially signed as a back up to Ruddy but since the number one’s injury Bunn has really stepped up to the plate with four clean sheets in the last eight fixtures.
Sunderland’s recent form is worrying and because of that I actually think that Norwich could sneak a win at the Stadium of Light. Whilst Mignolet is playing well things just aren’t working for Martin O’Neill and his team and Chris Hughton’s men were unlucky last week against Southampton.
Regardless of this result I think that both these teams are unlikely to go down. Norwich have been impressive largely and I think Martin O’Neill has just enough about him and his squad to keep his team in the division.
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