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Season preview: Sunderland

Season preview: Sunderland
© AP Photos
Sports Mole assesses Sunderland's chances ahead of the new Premier League campaign.

With the new Premier League season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole looks at Sunderland and how they might fare.

In:

El Hadji Ba (Le Havre - £380,000), Modibo Diakite (Free), Cabral (Free), Vito Mannone (Arsenal, Undisclosed), David Moberg Karlsson (Gothenburg, Undisclosed), Valentin Roberge (Free), Duncan Watmore (Altrincham, Undisclosed), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, Undisclosed), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus, £8.5m)

Out:

James McClean (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool, £9m), Titus Bramble (Released), Anthony Callaghan (Released), Wade Joyce (Released), Matt Kilgallon (Blackburn Rovers, Free), Ryan Noble (Released), Adam Reed (Released), Ben Wilson (Released), Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull City, £2m)

Last Season: 17th

Manager: Paolo Di Canio

Three key players:


The Stadium of Light© PA Photos
Wes Brown - The veteran defender has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but his performances in pre-season have proved why he will be so valuable to the Black Cats this year. On his day, Brown is a force of nature at the back. Great positioning, hard tackling and heroic interventions are just three of Brown's trademarks. However, the big question continues to be his fitness. Keep him up and running and Sunderland have a superbly versatile defender on their hands.


Kyle Bartley during a warm up on January 6, 2013© PA Photos
Cabral - One of a number of arrivals at the Stadium of Light this summer, Swiss midfielder Cabral is likely to add some much-needed mettle to Sunderland. Never afraid to shirk a tackle, the 24-year-old is also a composed passer of the ball who plays with an unflustered style. Don't expect too many fireworks from the player - he's certainly more level-headed than Lee Cattermole - instead, be prepared for him to sit in front of the defence and add an extra layer of protection at the back.


Sunderland's Steven Fletcher after scoring against Reading on December 11, 2012© AP Photos
Steven Fletcher - The Scot enjoyed a free-scoring start to his career at Sunderland last season following a move from Wolverhampton Wanderers before injury ruled him out for the final few months of the campaign. His goals will be as vital to the Black Cats this season, and he may prosper even more under Paolo Di Canio's attacking style of play. A clever presence in the penalty area who turns up in the right place at the right time, Fletcher is a natural finisher who is sure to excel again this term.

First game: Fulham (H), Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: Sunderland have revamped their squad extensively over the summer, bringing in nine new players and releasing 10 more. However, not all of those have Premier League experience so it remains to be seen what sort of an impact they will have. However, be prepared for a team that is well-drilled thanks to the strict management style of Paolo Di Canio. The Italian demands perfection every time his side runs out onto the pitch and anything less is met with wild disapproval. It probably will not be the easiest of campaigns for the Black Cats (drama is inevitable), but they could well be challenging for a top-half finish.

Predicted finish: 15th

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Vito Mannone
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Plymouth ArgylePlymouth1375122121026
2Wycombe WanderersWycombe128222012826
3Wigan AthleticWigan118122171425
4Sunderland118122012825
5Rotherham UnitedRotherham1272320101023
6MK Dons125432116519
7Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds125431311219
8Burton Albion135441416-219
9Oxford UnitedOxford Utd125341815318
10Bolton WanderersBolton135352020018
11Accrington StanleyAccrington125161421-716
12Portsmouth124351514115
13Lincoln CityLincoln124351616015
14Cheltenham TownCheltenham124351220-815
15Ipswich TownIpswich123542321214
16Morecambe124262221114
17AFC Wimbledon123541921-214
18Cambridge UnitedCambridge113531618-214
19Fleetwood TownFleetwood113442018213
20Gillingham132561219-711
21Shrewsbury TownShrewsbury133281018-811
22Charlton AthleticCharlton122371320-79
23Crewe AlexandraCrewe12156918-98
24Doncaster RoversDoncaster11218620-147

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