by Tom Allen
It's probably quite misleading that Sunderland are yet to lose in the Premier
League this season but they are clearly difficult to beat and should make life
tough for Manchester City on Saturday.
The Black Cats have drawn four of their opening five top flight matches and
while their fixture list has been far from taxing, the north-east club did start
with an opening stalemate at Arsenal.
Martin O'Neil's side rarely please on the eye but the Northern Irishman is
slowly stamping his authority on a squad which has more than enough talent to be
competitive at this level and in Steven Fletcher finally has somebody upon whom
goals are almost guaranteed.
Fletcher was a big-money signing from Wolves in the summer and the fee,
reported to be around £14m, certainly raised a few eyebrows.
However, the Scot has found the net five times in just four appearances, the
latest giving his side maximum points against Wigan last weekend, and now looks
a transfer bargain.
As well as the draw at The Emirates, Sunderland have also gained valuable
points at West Ham and Swansea this term and also had enough about them to hold
Liverpool in front of their own fans.
O'Neil teams are clearly not fazed by the big occasion and Sunderland will
have plenty of positive experiences to draw upon ahead of Saturday's match after
some fine recent displays against their upcoming opponents.
It is just one defeat for Sunderland in their previous five matches against
the current Premier League champions and they face a Man City team that has
failed to reach the heights of their title-winning season this time around.
Roberto Mancini saw his side totally outplayed by Borussia Dortmund in
midweek in the Champions League, quite how they salvaged a draw I'm not sure,
and the Italian has yet to see his side keep a clean sheet this season.
With the players at his disposal that last stat will greatly concern Mancini
and while Sunderland are certainly not in the class of the Bundesliga champions
they will ask the hosts plenty of questions.
Having conceded just four goals in seven matches in all competitions, siding
with Sunderland on the handicaps looks the way to go and I'm not sure many will
be tempted by the 1/4 on offer about a home win.
It could well be another frustrating afternoon for the Citizens and the value
lies with the visitors.
2pts Back Sunderland (+1.5, Asian Handicap vs. Man City) @ 43/40 (Bet