Back-to-back weeks of cup action may have acted as a distraction to Sunderland and their fans, but after their League Cup final defeat was followed up by last week’s FA Cup exit at Hull, the reality of the precarious position they find themselves in the Premier League has once again resurfaced. Currently occupying 19th spot with just 24 points collected from their 26 games, a win against fellow strugglers Palace is a necessity for Gus Poyet and the Wearsiders.
While no one can deny the Uruguayan has saved the Black Cats’ ship sinking into the abyss since he took over from the controversial Paulo Di Canio last year, relegation from England’s top flight will be signalled as a failure by those higher up than Poyet – although it’s unlikely he would lose his job if the unthinkable were to happen. Their cup exploits mean they have the comfort of having played two games less than their nearest rivals, and with Tony Pulis’ side arriving in the north east with just one league win in five, Sunderland could well leapfrog their opponents in the league this weekend.
The honeymoon period for Pulis has well and truly worn off with the Eagles once again just two clear of the drop zone following a run of no wins in three, and just four points from their last five league matches. With back-to-back visits to north east scheduled – they travel to St. James’ Park next weekend – they must surely come back from one of them with three points to ease their relegation fears.
That being said, victory on Saturday will see them reach the 30-point mark – a feat not even Palace fans thought they’d achieve after they were promoted via the playoffs last year. Defeat may set off alarm bells at Selhurst Park, but due to how tight it is in the bottom half of the Premier League, Pulis’ experience in the top division will tell him that just a couple of wins can make all the difference.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 3pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Crystal Palace (Gabbidon, Gayle, O’Keefe) 3-1 Sunderland (Fletcher), Premier League
Sunderland 0-0 Crystal Palace, Championship
Crystal Palace (Hudson) 1-0 Sunderland, Championship
Sunderland have tasted victory in the league at the Stadium of Light just once in their last seven
Palace, though, have only registered six goals away from Selhurst this season – the worst return of any Premier League side
The away team hasn’t won in this fixture in any of the last 10 meetings
Only Palace have been relegated from the Premier League more often than Sunderland (4 v 3)
Sunderland to win: 2.05
Palace to win: 3.25
TV: Highlights on BBC One, 10.30pm Saturday