Adnan Januzaj looks set to keep his place in the team for the visit of Southampton this weekend, with Sunderland hoping that his partnership with Jermain Defoe can fire the Black Cats to another precious win.
The pair dovetailed beautifully at Selhurst Park to cut Crystal Palace open in a remarkable first-half stoppage time blitz, the prodigious Belgian twice finding one of the league’s best finishers with precise through balls.
The 22-year-old produced arguably his best performance since arriving on Wearside, before being substituted in the second half with a rib injury. However, he is looking forward to the weekend and is loving life alongside Defoe.
He said: “I really like playing with him even though he always asks for the ball! He’s an unbelievable striker and you can see that with his goals because they weren’t easy chances. He’s someone I can learn a lot from.
“In the last few games we’ve linked really well and I think we have a good relationship with each other. We’re enjoying playing together and hopefully he can score many more goals.”
That combination will be a major boost for David Moyes, who has been desperately trying to plug the gap left by Victor Anichebe’s injury.
Earlier in the season, Moyes found a winning formula by playing the Nigerian alongside Defoe and the hard-running Duncan Watmore, but Januzaj and Fabio Borini struggled over the festive period. Moyes tried without success to replace Anichebe with Leonardo Ulloa, and the absence of a target man left them floundering.
An inability to get up the field was obvious but the Black Cats but their third goal at the weekend, a superb sweeping counter from edge of their own area, offers hope, Januzaj also pointed to the return of Didier Ndong as a key factor in recent improvements.
He said: “Like I said before, it’s much easier for me and JD when the team are playing with confidence, but Didier also helps because he brings the midfield a lot closer to us. Everyone got up the pitch really quick on Saturday and I think it showed with the chances we created. It was a real team effort.”
The challenge for Januzaj now is to find some consistency in his performances.