INJURY-RAVAGED, out-of-form Sunderland go into tomorrow’s clash against runaway league leaders Manchester United with boss Martin O’Neill insisting his side are capable of an upset.
Sunderland have not won in their last seven games – a run which has dropped the Black Cats into the thick of the Premier League’s tense relegation battle
Meanwhile, Manchester United come to the Stadium of Light having won 15 and drawn two of their last 17 league games.
But despite the overwhelming odds being on a United win, O’Neill has called to mind the memory of the Black Cats’ home wins over current Premier League champions Manchester City as a source of inspiration.
He said: “We were given no chance against Manchester City at Christmas time and yet we won that game – so why can’t we do something similar tomorrow?”
“I remember the game we played against Manchester City on New Year’s Day (last season), we had players playing all over the place who were out of position. We had key players who would have started the game that weren’t available.
“But, against the odds, we won that game and we have to remember that, going into the game against United.
“It’s a big occasion tomorrow and we have to look forward to it.”
It remains, though, the biggest of uphill battles for Sunderland, who have other injuries apart from those which have ruled leading scorer Steven Fletcher and skipper Lee Cattermole out for the rest of the season.
Midfielder David Vaughan missed both of Wales’ World Cup qualifiers with a groin problem, although O’Neill refused to rule the former Blackpool man out of the Manchester United game at this stage.
The manager is also hoping that Stephane Sessegnon recovers from the groin injury which forced him to pull out of Benin’s game in midweek.
“I can’t definitely discount David just yet,” said O’Neill.
“He came back from international duty still feeling some ill-effects, and I’m not sure yet whether he will be available.
“The situation with Stephane Sessegnon is similar.”
Centre-half Carlos Cuellar, though, has definitely been ruled out after picking up an ankle injury in Sunderland’s 1-1 draw against Norwich a fortnight ago.
The loss of the Spaniard is expected to see Titus Bramble returning to the starting line-up alongside John O’Shea at the centre of Sunderland’s defence.