Sunderland v Fulham Cheat Sheet
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.
What was once a Premier League fixture may now be a contest between teams in two different divisions, but the old FA Cup cliché certainly applied when they met in late January. The tournament has no care for league status, and the Championship will host their top flight opponents as equals on Wednesday night.
Though facing top-half Premier League opposition will not faze Sunderland, the visitors have to rightly be considered the favourites to progress from this replay. Both Fulham and the Black Cats won promotion from their respective divisions at the end of last season, and both have had such strong campaigns that you would be forgiven for believing that they have been at their current level for several years.
Fulham’s is particularly impressive, having been marked as one of the latest clubs to yo-yo between the first and second tiers, 2022-23 has provided refreshing proof that a newly promoted side can comfortably survive a season in the riches and quality of the Premier League. Currently 8th and above the giants of both Chelsea and Liverpool in the table, Fulham have gone beyond just survival this year and have found themselves flirting with the idea of European football. Their success comes not only from a top-half home record but also the 7th best record on the road out of all 20 Premier League sides. The only teams that have collected more points away from home form the current top six in the division. Defeat at high-flying Newcastle United is the Cottagers only loss away from home since the turn of the year. A point at Stamford Bridge on Friday leaves Fulham with four points collected from a possible six against their West London neighbours in a fixture they historically used to fail to get anything better than a draw in.
This isn’t just a top flight team staying afloat, this is a seriously competitive Premier League outfit, and one that should rightly be expected to learn from the mistakes of the original tie and progress through to round five.
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.
With Sunderland averaging 1.4 goals a game, and Fulham averaging 1.5 scored a game in the top flight, these are a pair of sides who will both fancy their chances of netting at least once at the stadium of light.
Scottish striker Ross Stewart understandably leads the way for Sunderland when it comes to taking shots at goal. With the 26-year-old unavailable however, attention needs to turn to the next prime candidates for threatening the Fulham goal on Wednesday.
Look no further than Amad Diallo. The 20-year-old Ivorian winger is on a season-long loan from Manchester United, and has been lighting up the Championship with high quality goals and exceptional dribbling ability. Primarily playing off the main striker as a fluid player that likes drifting into the channels, Diallo sits second on the Black Cats’ active players shot list, averaging 2.5 attempts per 90 minutes. The majority of these come within the penalty box as the youngster uses his excellent ball control to wriggle out of tight space before pulling the trigger.
Diallo played the full game at Craven Cottage and was a menace throughout. Such is the quality of his dribbling at speed that it requires excellent precision and timing to take the ball out of his possession. Allow him to advance unopposed, and he will charge at goal with the full intent of scoring. Sunderland fans will be keen to see him at full belt at the Stadium of Light this midweek.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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