Manchester City prepare to take on Sunderland in tomorrow's season opener at The Etihad. With so many storylines surrounding the match, it's going to be one very interesting affair. To get a better understanding of our opponents, I sat down for a quick Q&A session with Rory Fallow from our fellow SB Nation blog Roker Report, covering all things Sunderland. I did a reverse Q&A with him as well, which can be found here.
- It's been quite the summer for Sunderland, seeing a manager who saved the club from another relegation battle suddenly be off for the big job with England! How much of a factor do you believe Big Sam's tenure at Sunderland played into the FA's decision?
RR: Yeah we never seem to have a quiet summer, do we? I think his time at Sunderland and West Ham will have been big factors in him getting the England gig. With West Ham he didn't just take them up but he immediately reestablished them as a solid Premier League outfit and it looked like he was going to do the same with us. The second half of last season was great, as we looked hard to beat and dangerous going forward and fans were hoping to see us pick up from where we left off, in the new campaign. But sadly, getting good performances out of a limited squad, that has some decent individuals, will draw the attention of the powers that be at the FA. It's so surprise that they opted for Allardyce when you look at how Portugal won the tournament, it did have the hallmarks of a Big Sam side. Look at Wales under Chris Coleman too, Allardyce could definitely get a similar tune out of England.
- Speaking of managers, it must have made the Sunderland faithful quite happy to see David Moyes take the open job. What's the overall feeling towards him from the fans?
RR: Initially, very positive. Moyes seemed the most logical choice and we got him in fairly quickly after Sam's departure was confirmed. The quick appointment made us all hopeful that we'd quickly get our transfer activity up and running, after the FA's dawdling had severely halted our dealings. Incomings haven't been as quick as we'd like and some sections of our fanbase are starting to get tetchy but hopefully the arrival on Papy Djilobodji will get the ball rolling, along with Paddy McNair, Donald Love and Adnan Januzaj - who look set to join from Manchester United.
Away from transfers, we're hopeful that Moyes can build something on Wearside similar to what he built on Merseyside. The landscape of the Premier League is obviously different to when Moyes took charge of Everton and we don't expect to establish ourselves in the top six, but if he can make us a competitive top half side then that would be grand.
- How much change do you expect Moyes to deliver to the club? Will there be any major changes in tactics and playing time for certain individuals?
RR: I wouldn't change too much tactically, for the time being at least. Moyes has kept on Allardyce's coaching staff, who are popular with the players, so that may be a signal that he's looking to make a gradual transition rather than start from scratch. We were quite counter attacking last season and I can see that continuing under Moyes, hopefully we keep being effective off set pieces as well.
As for players, Jack Rodwell may be more involved as his former mentor looks to get him back to the form which tempted yourselves into signing him. With a deal still not done to bring Yann M'Vila back to the Stadium of Light and Yann Kirchhoff being a fitness doubt, we'll probably see him in the starting line up on Saturday. It could be a big season for a youth players as well, given Moyes record of nurturing young talent. Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford will look to develop further after breaking into the first team last season, while the trio of Robson's (Tom, Josh & Ethan), Joel Asoro, Lynden Gooch & Rees Greenwood were heavily involved in pre season.
- Here's a more general league question. Which signing, or signings have stood out to you as the best thus far, in terms of impact on the field or from a business standpoint?
RR: Your neighbours have certainly been headline grabbers with Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and, of course, the whole Pogba saga. There doesn't seem to have been as much fanfare surrounding your transfers but I think Nolito and Leroy Sane is a great signings. Staying with the big boys Joel Matip and Michy Batshuayi look like good purchases for Liverpool and Chelsea.
Elsewhere, Jordan Ibe is a decent capture for Bournemouth and not a bad price given how crazy the market is this year. I think Swansea fans have reasons to be worried after losing Andre Ayew and (potentially) Ashley Williams, two of their biggest influences. Fernando Llorente is certainly an interesting (and unexpected) arrival for them though.
- Are there any players you believe will have a particularly good year for the Black Cats this season? Piggybacking off of that, where do you see Sunderland finishing this year?
RR: With not many new faces in yet we're mainly looking for players to pick up from where they left off last season. Jan Kirchhoff was instrumental in our midfield, sitting just in front of the back four, and if he can stay fit he'll further prove how much of bargain he was at £750k. Guardiola will know all about him as well, as he signed him for Bayern Munich before selling him in January. So here's hoping he shows him what he missed out on!
I think Wahbi Khazri will be our main man from an attacking point of view though, great set pieces and plenty of tricks make him a nightmare for defenses.
We wish every season for mid table mediocrity but even just a season of no serious relegation trouble would be nice. I can't see us pulling up many trees though and see us finishing 14th.
- What's a typical Sunderland fan's feeling towards City?
RR: Compared to the other Premier League "super powers", pretty favourably, I would say. Like ourselves, City fans have known some pretty bleak times as supporters so, despite your success, it seems to have kept your fans realistic and humble in their expectations which gives the club a good image. Sunderland supporters tend to judge other clubs/fans on their away followings given that we're one of the less glamourous/further away trips for opposing fans and we travel in big numbers ourselves. City always bring up decent numbers though and make some noise.
- Moving aside from narrative, what lineup do you see Moyes using on Saturday? Any clashes on the pitch you're looking forward to?
RR: I'd expect Vito Mannone to start in goal with Patrick van Aanholt at left back and Donald Love to make his debut at right back, since Billy Jones is injured. Centre halves are a bit harder to call with the whole Lamine Kone saga going on but expect to see Younes Kaboul start alongside either John O'Shea or Papy Djilobodji, if Moyes doesn't feel Kone is in the right frame of mind. Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchoff have been ruled out so Paddy McNair should make his debut in midfield, alongside Jack Rodwell. Jermain Defoe looks set to recover from an thigh injury, so he'll probably start up front with Fabio Borini, Jermain Lens and Wabhi Khazri behind him. Adnan Januzaj has just joined from your neighbours as well, he probably won't be ready to start but is available to make the bench.
Clashes on the pitch? Hopefully just Arguero getting frustrated about not being able to get of Kaboul's pocket!
- Finally, a prediction for the match?
RR: I'm not that confident, to be honest. Heart says we'll grind out a draw but I can't see anything other than a comfortable City win. 3-1 to City.