OPPOSITION VIEW: Sunderland bidding to repay fans’ faith

Jack Ross took over as Sunderland manager in the summer
Jack Ross took over as Sunderland manager in the summer

As Fleetwood Town embark on their first trip to the Stadium of Light the Gazette has taken a look into what they can expect this weekend.

Richard Mennear from our sister paper, the Sunderland Echo, has provided the Cod Army with the lowdown on League One new boys Sunderland.

Charlie Wyke and Sunderland could be a perfect match

Charlie Wyke and Sunderland could be a perfect match

Sunderland are unbeaten thus far in the league with four wins and two draws leaving them fourth on 14 points after their opening six games.

Fleetwood are hot on their heels though as, after an opening day defeat to AFC Wimbledon, Town are five unbeaten in the league and yet to concede on the road in the league.

It is a mouthwatering fixture, especially given Barton’s past as a former Newcastle United player.

How well have Sunderland been playing recently?

The first 45 minutes against Oxford United was comfortably the worst of the season so far by Sunderland.

Oxford pressed Sunderland high and the Black Cats struggled to deal with their physicality in the opening stages.

Going down to 10 men after just 20 minutes also didn’t help, with referee Mark Heywood losing control in the first half with several bizarre decisions.

Thankfully Sunderland held firm and a change at half-time in the system and personnel helped regain a foothold in the game.

Charlie Wyke came off the bench for Chris Maguire – who was in danger of being sent off – and scored the equaliser on his debut.

In the end Sunderland produced a spirited second half display and battled hard for a well-earned point, playing for more than 70 minutes with 10 men.

Prior to the Oxford game, Sunderland were flying and had picked up three wins in six days, pushing them into the automatic promotion spots before dropping down to fourth.

Sunderland play an attacking style of football under Jack Ross so there is space to be exploited at the back.

What kind of line-up should fans expect to see when Sunderland take on Fleetwood? Are there are any injury doubts or selection headaches?

Max Power will serve the first game of his three-match ban following his red against Oxford.

He will be a big miss in the middle but Dylan McGeouch is now back fit so he will replace him and play alongside Lee Cattermole.

Ross has been playing a lopsided 3-5-2 system with Lynden Gooch and Bryan Oviedo playing down the flanks.

There will have to be changes though as Oviedo is away on international duty.

Bali Mumba is also away; the 16-year-old has been a regular in the squad this season.

Tom Flanagan and Charlie Wyke could come into the starting line-up for their full debuts.

Are there are any noticeable weak links which Fleetwood will be looking to exploit?

Flanagan has been injured and has been a big miss as Ross has had to rely on Donald Love on the right-hand side of a back three, with Adam Matthews also out injured.

Love, it is fair to say, has struggled so far this season and Flanagan will be a big addition to the back three.

Glenn Loovens missed the Oxford game with a tight groin but Ross will be hoping he is back at the heart of the defence.

The other area Sunderland have struggled with is stopping the sheer volume of crosses coming into the area.

They need to work harder to stop the opposition getting balls into the box.

What kind of home support should we expect to see turn out?

A big one! Sunderland have been backed by huge crowds this season at home–- and sold-out away followings on the road.

Against Oxford, there were more than 32,000 inside the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland’s owners want to see the club break the average attendance record for the third tier.

Given what the fans have had to put up with in recent seasons, the level of support is staggering.

Prediction time! What kind of game are you expecting and what do you think the final score will be?

I think Sunderland will bounce back from the disappointment of the 1-1 draw with Oxford United.

Obviously Joey Barton’s presence in the opposition technical area adds further spice!

Clearly, Fleetwood are in good form themselves and have enjoyed a really positive start to the new season.

Hopefully it will be an entertaining game with a Sunderland win.

The Black Cats will need to start better than they did against Oxford though.

Is there anything else Fleetwood Town fans should know about Sunderland?

Ross isn’t afraid to make decisive decisions when it comes to the subs bench.

The Scot had made all three before the hour mark against AFC Wimbledon, and if something isn’t working, then he won’t hang about and will be proactive and change it.

Watch out for that lopsided 3-5-2 system too; it can often appear like a back four but the wing-backs help get Sunderland up the pitch in dangerous areas.