by Tom Allen
Sunderland clearly have one eye on the FA Cup and are opposable against QPR
on Saturday at just over even money.
The Black Cats face Everton in a quarter-final replay in midweek having been
held 1-1 at Goodison Park in the original tie and with Europe not on the horizon
via the Premier League, nor is relegation a threat, there every chance they
could be a soft touch this coming weekend.
With home advantage on Tuesday against the Toffees I'd be shocked if Martin
O'Neill didn't rest some key men against the London club and even those that
take to the pitch for Sunderland will surely have their minds elsewhere.
O'Neill has performed with great credit since taking over from Steve Bruce
and the Northern Irishman would dearly love to lead out his new team at Wembley.
Sunderland rolled over limply at Blackburn last time out, beaten 2-0 at Ewood
Park, and QPR will fancy their chances of getting something in the north-east.
Rangers snapped a horrendous run of results with an unforgettable
come-from-behind win over Liverpool at Loftus Road on Wednesday night and if
that 3-2 triumph does not galvanise Mark Hughes and his players then I'm not
sure what will.
With a difficult run-in ahead, QPR need to pick up points against Sunderland
and, after goals from Sean Derry, Djibrill Cisse and John Mackie gave them the
maximum haul against the Merseysiders, they should enter the clash full of
QPR had been pretty abject prior to their remarkable recovery but Hughes
knows that was a huge boost to their survival chances and will be expecting his
men to maintain the feel-good factor at the Stadium of Light.
There is no doubt Sunderland's overall form has dipped in recent weeks, just
one win in five matches, and, given the circumstances, they must be taken on at
2pts Back QPR-Draw (Double Chance, vs. Sunderland) @ 4/5 (Bet