Mar 15, 2014 at 3pm UK at ​Stadium of Light
Crystal Palace

Bridcutt (19'), Larsson (57'), Gardner (64'), Brown (79')

Mariappa (8'), Ward (13'), Dikgacoi (45'), Delaney (58')

Preview: Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace

Sports Mole previews the crucial bottom-of-the-table Premier League clash between relegation rivals Sunderland and Crystal Palace at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has described the Premier League visit of Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon as the biggest game of their season.

Considering that the Black Cats have played in a cup final and quarter-final this year, that shows how important this match is in the battle to avoid the drop.

The Wearsiders are currently 19th in the table, but they have as many as three games in hand on some of their relegation rivals and can climb above Palace with a win at the Stadium of Light.

Victory over Sunderland at Selhurst Park in August was the only success that the Eagles tasted in their opening 10 outings back in the top flight, but the appointment of Tony Pulis turned their season around.

They have since won regularly, particularly against their sides around them in the table, and another good display this weekend could see them move five points clear of the bottom three.

The Welshman's only injury concern is striker Marouane Chamakh, who is ruled out with a hamstring injury, and therefore Glenn Murray is likely to retain his place as Palace's lone forward.

Blackpool loanee Thomas Ince is in line for a recall for the Londoners' first of back-to-back games in the North-East, with either Jason Puncheon or Yannick Bolasie at risk of losing their starting place.

After making several changes for their FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Hull City, Poyet is likely to revert back to the tried and tested, with Wes Brown and Marcos Alonso returning to the back four.

Behind them, Vitor Mannone is enjoying a fine season and will regain the gloves from Oscar Ustari, while Liam Bridcutt and Ki Sung-Yueng will probably be restored in central midfield.

Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini are others who should be back in the XI after the likes of Ignacio Scocco and Emmanuele Giaccherini failed to impress in the 3-0 loss at the KC Stadium.

Recent form

Sunderland: LLLWLW

Palace: LDLWLW

Possible starting lineups

Sunderland: Mannone; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Colback, Bridcutt, Ki, Johnson; Borini, Fletcher

Palace: Speroni; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Moxey; Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Ledley; Bolasie, Ince, Murray

Sports Mole says: 2-0

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