Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur: Returning stars give Moyes hope his team can stay in the contest

Didier Ndong
Didier Ndong

It is perhaps typical of Sunderland’s frustrating season that just when Didier Ndong showed what an asset he can be for the Black Cats, he promptly departed for Gabon.

Ndong, alongside Jack Rodwell, played his part in a superb 2-2 draw. Moyes’ decision to go with a bold 4-4-2 against Liverpool’s scintillating attack was vindicated by an energetic and impressive display from the youngster.

Ndong and Kone will give Moyes a much needed selection boost

Ndong and Kone will give Moyes a much needed selection boost

That presence was badly missed in recent weeks, and his likely return against a high-intensity Spurs side provides his manager with much-needed relief.

Moyes has urged onlookers to allow his game to develop, but expects an instant impact from the also returning Lamine Kone.

He said: “What Didier has done is to give us a bit of energy, and also something different.

“I think to ask a 22-year-old to come in from France and be a key player at Sunderland would be a difficult task for any top player to come and do that.

“So I think you have to give Didier some breathing space to develop.

Lamine is slightly different. He came in last year and hit the ground running, but he is a bit older, more experienced and plays a slightly different role.

“But I would say we have missed Lamine in the cup games, the game against Stoke, we have missed his physical presence.”

Both endured difficult times at the African Cup of Nations, Kone left out by coach Michel Dussuyer as the favourites crashed out in the group stages.

Ndong’s Gabon also fell at the first hurdle, even the electric Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang insipid as he hosts failed to execute any kind of gameplan.

Yet both will need to hit the ground running back on Wearside if Sunderland are to have even a hope of turning around the poor form they have suffered since the pair left at the start of the month.

Spurs were in a different league when the two sides met earlier in the season, and Mauricio Pochettino’s team have gone up through the gears since then,

Dele Alli is in the form of his life while the Black Cats will be without their two new signings, Wahbi Khazri, and the rest of their long-term concerns.

The visitors will be heavy favourites for the game, and Moyes has called upon his team to stay in the contest for as long as possible.

They looked relatively comfortable at the Hawthorns last week until two sloppy goals settled the contest before half-time.

Moyes is well aware that the damage could be severe if they replicate that against this Tottenham team, particularly with such a pivotal game at Selhurst Park just days away.

“We have to try and win every game.

“It doesn’t matter who we are playing, we have to attempt to get a result.

“But in saying that there is no point in playing four centre-forwards and finding yourself 2-0 down after 10 minutes.

“We have to make sure we are in the game, just as we were in the game against Liverpool.

“Even the game at Spurs when we lost 1-0, Steven Pienaar probably had the best chance of the game but didn’t score and then we made a mistake and lost the game.

“We have to make sure we are in the game, to give ourselves a chance of getting something out of it.

“You could name them – Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele, the two boys who play as full-backs or wing-backs are a big threat as well.

“Spurs have plenty of players who can hurt you, so we have to do a job on them but we also have to try and find a way to cause them some problems ourselves.

“The most important thing is we don’t do anything silly.

“If they’re good enough to beat us then I’m happy to say well done, but really we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot in recent games.

“We have to try and stay in the games, hang in a bit longer and try and go and win them when we can.”