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Preview: Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Sports Mole previews Sunderland's visit of Spurs as both sides chase a first Premier League win of the season.

Two of the Premier League's out-of-form teams clash in the North-East this Sunday afternoon as Sunderland host Tottenham Hotspur.

The Stadium of Light will play host as both outfits battle to break their ducks and pick up what would be a first victory of the 2015-16 campaign.


Sunderland

Yann M'Vila of Sunderland scores his team's first goal from a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park on August 29, 2015© Getty Images

Dick Advocaat famously cried tears of joy after earning a 0-0 draw away to Arsenal in May for a point that secured Sunderland's Premier League safety.

Fast forward four months and the Dutchman could be forgiven for being teary-eyed again - but for markedly different reasons. Bottom of the table with two points after four games, this is far from the start that Advocaat would have dreamed of.

Having stared down the barrel of relegation for so long last term, and spent £25m on five new players in the summer, optimism was rife on Wearside that the Black Cats would thrive as a result of their close shave last time around but it has not quite happened as of yet.

Kicking off the campaign with a 4-2 defeat at Leicester City - with whom they wrestled for survival last season - was hardly an ideal way in which to begin, but another setback followed by losing 3-1 to newly-promoted Norwich City at the Stadium of Light. In both games, Advocaat's side went 3-0 down.

There has been a slight improvement since, with Sunderland holding in-form Swansea City to a 1-1 draw, before drawing 2-2 away to Aston Villa in a couple of improved showings to restore hope that this season will not be as precarious as previous ones.

Furthermore, it was two summer signings in the form of Yann M'Vila and Jeremain Lens that secured their point at Villa Park, and Advocaat will hope that Fabio Borini - who represents £10m of their summer outlay - can reproduce his magic throughout the season as he prepares for a permanent spell with Sunderland.

Recent form: LLDD
Recent form (all competitions): LLDWD


Tottenham Hotspur

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts after missing a chance during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at The King Power Stadium on August 22, 2015© Getty Images

Is this the year Tottenham Hotspur return to the big time of Champions League football? Not if their early-season form is anything to go by. With zero wins and three goals from their first four games, Spurs are certainly not inspiring much confidence that a top-four finish is awaiting them come May.

Returning to Europe's elite competition has been the mandate of every Tottenham manager since Martin Jol but, as it stands, only Harry Redknapp has managed to achieve the feat. If Mauricio Pochettino plans on joining that exclusive club then the journey must start on Sunday.

The Argentine, who led the Lilywhites to a fifth-place finish in his first season last term, can ill afford any more dropped points after what has been a sluggish start to the 2015-16 campaign.

Pochettino's side went down 1-0 at Manchester United on the opening day of the season in a defeat which could, and perhaps should, have been avoided given the visitors' chances and dominance on the day. An own goal from Kyle Walker ultimately undermined them.

There were further examples of shooting themselves in the foot at White Hart Lane the following week, with Stoke City netting twice in the final 12 minutes to cancel out the hosts' two-goal lead and leave with a 2-2 draw.

Misfiring star striker Harry Kane, who scored 31 times last term, continued to be conspicuous by his absence, then failing to open his account in the subsequent draws away to Leicester City and home to Everton before the international break. He firmly denied claims of being a one-season wonder this week, but there is only one way to really answer such suggestions.

With the goalscoring burden resting on Kane's shoulders, his profligacy underlined the importance of drafting in another striker but Saido Berahino's botched deadline-day move from West Bromwich Albion will have done little to reassure their fans.

Pochettino has insisted that the 22-year-old will be helped in the final third by new signings Son Heung-min and Clinton N'Jie, but it remains to be seen if those incomings are strong enough to help Spurs brush shoulders with Europe's elite again.

Recent form: LDDD


Team News

Adam Johnson for Sunderland on January 1, 2015© Getty Images

Striker Steven Fletcher will miss the visit of the North Londoners with a knock.

Adam Johnson remains unavailable for Sunderland after suffering a shoulder injury last month, but the winger resumed light training this week.

Jordi Gomez is available again after a knee problem, but the visit of Tottenham comes too soon for the Spaniard, who featured in an Under-21 outing recently.

DeAndre Yedlin, who joined Advocaat's side on loan from Spurs, is ineligible to face his parent club.

Meanwhile, Son could be handed his Lilywhites debut, but fellow summer recruit N'Jie is still not fit enough to make the trip.

Elsewhere, Christian Eriksen is ruled out with a knee injury, while Moussa Dembele is doubtful after falling injured against the Toffees last time out.

Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Pantilimon; Jones, O'Shea, Kaboul, van Aanholt; Cattermole, M'Vila, Rodwell; Lens, Graham, Defoe

Tottenham Hotspur possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Dier; Chadli, Mason, Son; Kane


Head To Head

Spurs have the luxury of boasting a five-year unbeaten run against their North-East counterparts, with the Lilywhites winning seven and drawing three of the last 10 meetings in all competitions. Sunderland's last victory was a 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light in 2010 - a game that saw Darren Bent score two and miss two penalties.


Video Preview

Hit play below to see what the Sports Mole Sofa had to say about this encounter:


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We say: Sunderland 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Despite both sides bringing sloppy early-season form into Sunday's clash, we reckon that Kane and Tottenham will finally spring to life and pick up a first win of the campaign. It may not be pretty, but the result is significantly more important than the performance for both sides this weekend.



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Costel Pantilimon is having a mare in Sunderland's game against Norwich on August 15, 2015
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