Sunderland v Fulham
Moved to Wednesday evening for TV coverage, Championship Sunderland against Premier League Fulham has the potential to be a very entertaining contest again.
The original tie at Craven Cottage saw Sunderland grab an early lead, concede an equaliser on the hour, and be denied a very late winner for 15-year-old substitute Christopher Rigg by the offside flag. The game in West London was an end-to-end enthralling affair, impacted by the loss of Sunderland striker Ross Stewart to a first half injury. The Scot has been a star for the Black Cats since joining from Ross County, but has found his career in the north east impacted by injury and this is his latest setback. With Leeds United loanee Joe Gelhardt cup-tied, Tony Mowbray could well be forced to deploy a frontline of unnatural forwards. Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts, Abdoullah Ba and Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo are all prime candidates to start, creating a frontline that may lack a focal point, but is full of competent dribblers and provides an electric threat on the break. Against Premier League opposition, that may not be a bad thing to have, it almost worked to perfection down at Craven Cottage.
Brazilian striker Carlos Vinícius was preferred to top scorer Aleksandar Mitrović in the original tie, supported by the lively Andreas Pereira as well as Harry Wilson and Shakhtar Donetsk loanee Manor Solomon. Tom Cairney and Joao Palhinha provide composure at the base of midfield. Fulham created the majority of the opportunities against Sunderland, goalkeeper Nathan Patterson put in a star display for the visitors, but did still find themselves vulnerable to the agility of Sunderland’s forwards and midfielders. It was ultimately a crucial mistake in possession from Issa Diop that gave the Black Cats the early lead, something that cannot afford to happen again if the Premier League side are to progress to their fifth round tie against Leeds United. The general higher quality players in Marco Silva’s side, which also includes experienced winger Willian and Jamaican forward Bobby Decordova-Reid, are averaging 1.5 goals scored a game in the top flight.
Sunderland, averaging 1.4 goals scored a game, put league matters to the side this midweek in a final attempt to reach the fifth round of this year’s FA Cup. The previous meeting between themselves and Fulham was an entertaining affair, and the hope for the watching audience will be of seeing a repeat at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats may be without their star striker, but as they showed just 11 days prior, they have the quality to cause their Premier League opponents problems, and this time face them on home soil.
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