MX23RW : Saturday, September 25 01:49:59| >> :600:404177:404177:
Dec 12, 2015 at 3pm UK at Stadium of Light
Attendance: 43,989
FT(HT: 0-1)
Ighalo (4')

Preview: Sunderland vs. Watford

Sports Mole previews the Premier League match between Sunderland and Watford at the Stadium of Light.

Two sides who have been in improving form recently meet at the Stadium of Light this weekend as Sunderland host Watford.

Both sides have two wins in their last three outings, but sit at opposite ends of the table, with the newly-promoted Hornets in the top half, while the home side sit in the relegation zone.


Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland at The Hawthorns on October 17, 2015© Getty Images

Sunderland have started to see their fortunes change following Sam Allardyce's appointment in October. The Black Cats finished November with back-to-back wins, and have won three of their last six outings in the top flight.

A tricky match at the Emirates against Arsenal last weekend saw Sunderland on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline though, leaving the team 19th in the table, a point from safety.

The team will be happy to be back on home soil this week, having secured the majority of their points at the Stadium of Light this season. Two of their three victories have been at their own stadium, as have two of their three clean sheets.

Defending has been a real problem for Sunderland this season, with the team conceding 29 goals in their 15 matches so far - only Bournemouth and Newcastle United have let in more.

The side's defensive struggles have resulted in reports that England Under-21 goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who is currently on loan with Preston North End in the Championship, could be recalled in January.

The team's attack has been stronger since Allardyce's arrival though, with the team failing to score in just one of their last six fixtures, netting nine times over the same period.

Recent form: WLLWWL


Odion Ighalo of Watford celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Norwich City at Vicarage Road on December 5, 2015© Getty Images

Watford's bright start to the season continued last weekend, with Quique Flores's side securing a 2-0 win over Norwich City at Vicarage Road, leaving them with four wins from their last six outings.

Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney's form has helped the newly-promoted side climb into the top half of the table. The duo were both on the scoresheet last weekend, taking the strikers' totals to nine and five goals respectively so far this season.

The duo's form has resulted in transfer speculation ahead of January's window, with the manager admitting that he is concerned about interest from other clubs. Deeney is also included on the shortlist for November's Premier League Player of the Month award.

Watford were one of the lowest-scoring sides in the top flight in the first couple of months of the campaign, but with 17 goals from 15 matches, the team now have the same number as defending champions Chelsea, and are just one behind Liverpool.

The team has also been strong at the back, keeping six clean sheets while conceding just 16 times - five fewer than league leaders Leicester City, although just one of their clean sheets comes from their last four matches.

Watford's home and away form has been fairly equal, with half of their six victories coming on the road. The Hornets tend to be involved in higher-scoring fixtures away from home though, scoring and conceding almost twice as often when playing away from Vicarage Road.

Recent form: WWLLWW

Team News

Sebastian Larsson of Sunderland in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland AFC and Stoke City FC at the Stadium of Light on November 28, 2015 in Sunderland, United Kingdom.© Getty Images

The home side will continue to be without midfielder Sebastian Larsson as he continues to struggle with an ongoing knee issue, which is expected to sideline him for the remainder of 2015.

Lee Cattermole is also absent with a back injury, while Steven Fletcher will need a late fitness test after injuring his foot in training. Allardyce confirmed that Jermaine Defoe and Wes Brown will both come back into the squad.

For the visitors, Valon Behrami has not featured since injuring his knee last month, but he has been back in training, so could return this weekend.

Sebastian Prodl is also in contention, having returned to training after injuring his calf a couple of weeks ago, but this match could come too soon for the defender.

Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Pantilimon, Coates, O'Shea, Kaboul, Yedlin, M'Vila, Rodwell, Van Aanholt, Borini, Fletcher, Watmore

Watford possible starting lineup:
Gomes, Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Ake, Anya, Watson, Capoue, Abdi, Ighalo, Deeney

Head To Head

This will be the first time that these two sides have met since the 2004-05 Championship season, when Sunderland claimed a 4-2 victory in the match at the Stadium of Light.

Watford have not beaten the Black Cats since 1999, but recorded an emphatic 8-0 win in the first ever meeting between the two sides.

In 20 previous matches, Sunderland have won eight times, while Watford have beaten this weekend's opponents just five times.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Sunderland 1-2 Watford

Sunderland have started to look more like a side capable of avoiding relegation in recent weeks, but Watford's formidable strike duo are in impressive form, and the Ighalo-Deeney combo will surely keep the home defenders busy. The Black Cats will look to exploit Watford's weaker-on-the-road defence, but it is hard not to see the visitors scoring a couple down the other end.

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Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Leicester City at Liberty Stadium on December 5, 2015
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