Eye on the Opposition: Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace (24.09.2016)

Written by Robert Sutherland

Palace play a Sunderland side undergoing their own transition. Here's Jack's look at what to expect from the Black Cats.

Benteke hands on head

Jermain Defoe is a threat.

Right, that's my Sunderland preview sorted. See you next week.

Seriously, what is there to say about Sunderland that hasn't been said for the last three or four seasons? It's all too obvious.

They DO look like obvious relegation candidates and they HAVE started abysmally. However, in appointing David Moyes, Sunderland have given the impression they're thinking long term this time and it's not merely a job of keeping the fire at bay but is he any safer than previous appointments?

If, as current form suggests they will be, stuck in the bottom three at the start of 2017 and all confidence is sapped from the playing squad, is Ellis Short going to resist the temptation to relieve Moyes of his duties and look for someone to provide short term impetus and lead Sunderland to safety, a la Di Canio, Poyet, Advocaat and Allardyce?

Unless Short is content with the club being relegated and hoping to come back straight away, then you couldn't blame him for seeking a way of staying in the top flight regardless of its means and that may mean Moyes isn’t as secure in his position as the media are making out.

He’s guided Sunderland to a fairly disappointing start to the season and after five games, they are winless and only spared the bottom spot by the hapless Stoke; and we are well placed to state that they’re not in the best health following last Sunday. I'm sure that if we hadn't swatted Stoke away with such ease last week, Sunderland would be a lot keener to play us than they probably are now.

An away win at QPR in the Coca Cola/Littlewoods Cup has lessened the pressure on Moyes and his side but a league win is the real aim and if Sunderland are to be in a position for their annual late season push, beating the likes of us at home is imperative.

Bringing new faces to the club proved difficult for Sunderland and their purchases come the end of the window didn't read for the most enthusiasm inducing whose who. Didier NDong came in with the tag as the club's most expensive signing but will take time to adapt to his new league. Paddy McNair, he of the fleeting Manchester United appearance over the past two seasons, has joined on a permanent basis in a bid to find regular football. Unfortunately for him, Lamine Kone, refused a move to Everton during the summer, and Papy Djilobodji, a new arrival from Chelsea, appear Moyes' preferred centre back pairing.

Adnan Januzaj, a brief flicker of hope for Moyes during his time as Manchester United boss has headed to Wearside on a season long loan and has shown promise in glimpses thus far. There's clearly a talented player there but he hasn't progressed since bursting on to the scene three years ago. He and Sunderland will be hoping that this season signals some improvements. He will be key when it comes to providing a goal threat and ensuring Jermaine Defoe is offered chances to score; a talent Defoe has made a career from.

Sunderland's strike threat really starts and finishes with Defoe. If he were to be out for a prolonged period, an already bleak campaign would have the lights further dimmed on it. His goals were monumental in terms of Sunderland's efforts to stay and were the catalyst for the calls for him to be included in the squad that headed to Euro 2016. All in all he did well to avoid that disaster but for a player who left for Toronto in what seemed a goodbye to the highest level, Defoe, last season, appeared as potent as he did in his pomp at Spurs. From what we've seen so far this campaign, Defoe will do well to match his total of 15 league goals this season but if Sunderland are to have any realistic chance of staying up, there'll need Defoe to find his scoring boots and fast.

As we saw when Everton visited The Stadium of Light, if the opposition score the first goal, The Mackems struggle for ideas in how to respond and the atmosphere throughout the place instantly grows toxic. If we, especially with our counter attacking threat, score the first goal, I would anticipate that would go a fair way to earning Palace the three points on Saturday.

Up to this point, Sunderland look like the walking dead with a distinct possibility of this season being the one that finally sees their stay in the top flight come to an end. This is a game we should be looking to take three points from.
Villa away last season, anyone?

Jack is our Eye on the Opposition Contributor. Follow him on Twitter.