Both of these clubs have everything to play for at the Stadium Light this Sunday, with both sitting precariously above the drop zone. Admittedly, the fortunes of both have improved over recent times, yet with Sunderland sat three points and Southampton sat four above the drop zone the pressure will certainly be mounting.
Some Sunderland fans would argue that their club was doomed for the depths of the Championship a few weeks ago, with Martin O’Neill simply unable to lift them from the slump they found themselves in. While his replacement Paulo Di Canio is a controversial figure at the best of times, nobody can dispute that he has eased their fears of relegation significantly following a return of seven points from the five matches he has overseen. There were some concerns after relegation rivals Aston Villa pulled off a shock 6-1 win over the Black Cats a couple of weeks ago, but Di Canio’s men responded solidly and recorded a 1-1 draw with Stoke in their most recent game which has moved them within touching distance of survival.
Southampton are another club down at the bottom who have changed their manager and with the move being an unpopular choice at the time, supporters will cast a decision at the end of the season on whether or not their board made the correct decision. At one point, it looked as though Saints were cruising to safety, although they have hit some rocky form over the last few weeks having failed to win in their last four. Nevertheless, with four points keeping the club above the bottom three, one would have to assume that they have just about done enough to secure their Premier League survival with two games remaining.
As for team news, Sunderland have been hit heavily by suspensions with Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon both set to miss the clash following disciplinary issues. However, they are the only absentees that Paulo Di Canio has to cope with, with the Italian still having Danny Rose available as he prepares for his final game for the Black Cats. The visitors are not the only club with disciplinary problems, with highly-rated Gaston Ramirez missing out as he serves a ban. Richard Chaplow is another who won’t play as he struggles with a back problem, but Mauricio Pochettino will at least have Danny Fox back in contention after he completed his suspension.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Sunderland fans already since Paulo Di Canio’s arrival, and we have a feeling that this weekend could be one of the Italian’s more positive games. Opponents Southampton have been poor of late and with Sunderland holding the home advantage, our tip is going to be a 2-0 victory for the Black Cats.