Since the saints made their way back into the premier league Sunderland have been consistent in a few things. They have been laughably bad, the own goal fest during their 8-0 defeat at St Mary's was just an example of the black cat's long distinguished record of terrible defending. They have also, much to the chagrine of our travelling fans, managed to find various inventive ways to survive each year. There was the Di Canio appointment. There was that time Connor Wickham exploded into a decent striker and dragged them to safety. And this year they have gone for the classic let Big Sam sort it out approach.
Despite their status as premier league cellar-dwellers we do not have a good record against the black cats. In all competitions the form guide shows LDDLDLWLW since promotion in 2012. So don't let the Vergini's amazing own goal fool you. Tomorrow could be tricky.
Kevin Friend was originally pencilled in to officiate this match. After his faceplant on Tuesday(a fall that I would like to go on the record as saying was in no way funny... not even a little bit) concussion protocols have barred him from any involvement on Saturday. The comments section on the daily echo's website has a few less than sympathetic views that I will quote here.
"What a shame, his performance against Liverpool, when he failed to give two penalties was the worst performance I've seen from a referee in a long time"
"Well that means he won't be able to decide the outcome of Saturdays match then, and after last Saturdays "refereeing" it's about time the Saint's started asking questions in regards to the amount of points poor refereeing has cost us"
Obviously I'm quoting these responses so I don't have to look like a bastard, but basically I can sympathise with the viewpoints. That liverpool game annoyed me for months. To be specific it has annoyed me for 13 months. That is to say it still annoys me.
Swarbrick, perhaps the only ref I don't dislike, will take the whistle in his place.
To the predictions:
I have yet to mention the despicable performance at the Vitality on Tuesday. To add insult to injury Lawrenson predicted the result correctly. We were all optimistic fools.
"The Saints are at home and that's why I think they will just sneak this one."
"It would take a very average Southampton performance for Sunderland to get anything from this game and I don't see Saints boss Ronald Koeman allowing that to happen after losing his last two games."
"10-1 Southampton. Sunderland are absolutely terrible... My actual prediction will be 2-1 saints. We don't score many goals right now."
"Sunderland are terrible but our form has dipped as well. Hope we see a good response, but I won't hold my breath."
"1-0 Saints. Only just..."
"An unconvincing 2-1 win for Southampton. Allardyce teams seem to do well against us but it is Sunderland. Surely we'll get back on the winning track? Please?"
"2-0 saints. Unconvincing but we cannot concede to them. Surely? Pelle to score."
"I'm missing the north London derby and der klassiker to go see this. Guaranteed nil nil."
"Saints to edge it, 2-1. It won't be pretty and it won't be the game of the century, but I think we'll just about manage to get the points we need after the last two results."