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Sunderland preview

It is a measure of recent contrasting fortunes of the two sides that should Sunderland defeat us this weekend, there will be just ten points between us, an amazing figure given until recently we were eyeing Europe (via the conventional route at least) whilst Sunderland were mired deep in relegation trouble.

I have no doubt Sunderland will fancy their chances given the recent flourish in their fortunes where they finally banished their away day blues, whilst we are sliding fast and Nedum Onouha became the latest injury problem to beset us.

It has been a strange past week or so for the club (including the Ronaldinho speculation), and you get the impression that things are just drifting aimlessly as we head towards the season with us heading nowhere fast - even our route into Europe doesn't depend on results on the pitch, but there are still a handful of games remaining and the aim has to be to finish as high as possible.

At the very least the players must be thinking ahead to next season, and almost auditioning for that campaign given the increasing likelihood of players arriving during the summer. Whilst there have been one or two murmurings from Sven, he is not the type to bang his fists on the table but he needs to light a fire under the side to get them out of the funk they are currently in.

Whilst struggling for the most part of the season - largely down to some dreadful form on their travels, when it matters Sunderland have pulled themselves together to launch themelves clear of the drop and having achieved the magical safety figure of 36 points could free themselves of the worries of relegation and end the campaign in style.

Given the resources available (and spent) by Roy Keane this season in achieving safety, it is a measure of just how big the gulf is between the Championship and Premier League, but with another spending spree in the summer anticipated, and with one eye on who may be coming up this season, Sunderland can justifiably feel confident of an extended stay in the top flight.

Team wise Sunderland boss Roy Keane will again be without midfielders Dwight Yorke and Dickson Etuhu. Yorke missed last weekend's 3-1 win at Fulham with a knee problem while Etuhu has been out for several weeks with a similar injury.

Nedum Onuoha is out for the rest of the season, leaving Man City short of options in the centre of defence. Vedran Curluka is likely to partner Richard Dunne in the middle, with Sun Jihai slotting in at right-back.

Not likely to be too exciting a contest I don't imagine, and a 1-1 is the most likely outcome.