Fulham head to the Stadium of Light today with their tails-up following two wins in a row against both Reading and Nottingham Forrest.
Gus Poyet’s Sunderland on the other hand find themselves in familiar surroundings, just one point above the relegation zone having lost their last three games against difficult opposition in the form of Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Adam Johnson, Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown will not start today through injury. The trio being influential players for Sunderland will make it a much more difficult day for Poyet’s side.
Scott Parker is unavailable today after he suffered a knock in the Cottagers 3-2 win over Nottingham Forrest.
Sunderland have been waiting over a month now for a victory since they won 1-0 against Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby.
The Black Cats gave a spirited account against Liverpool and narrowly lost at White Hart Lane in their two most recent encounters but a win is a must to restore a sense of belief within this side following such a poor run of form.
One could argue last season’s League Cup run gave Sunderland the desired shot in the arm to inspire a last gasp race to stay up.
A win at home to Fulham today could give them a positive start in reigniting their season which has stagnated since the beginning of the new year.
For Fulham, their season has been mediocre at best thus far, but with such a tightly-packed mid-table area, the Cottagers, in 14th place could very well make a push up the league table, which will likely be the priority, despite the prize of a place in the fifth round at stake.
Having to play with less injuries than Sunderland could turn out to be a huge advantage but a trip to the north-east at one of the coldest times of year is something no side will look forward to as simply another game.
Sunderland have proved, even in their last couple of games that they are tough opponents for anyone and they will be going into this game in the unfamiliar role of favourites.
This tag may not help but this writer expects Gus Poyet’s men to be able to overcome the Championship side with new signing Jermain Defoe making his home debut.
Fulham will be boosted by the exclusion of Cattermole, Brown and Johnson but the Premier League outfit should prove too strong at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland 2-1 Fulham
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Ben Harding. (Sunderland vs Newcastle – Warmup) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons