City will head to the north-east full of confidence after their third consecutive victory and will be looking to add a fourth. Steve Bruce’s Sunderland are an unpredictable side with the capacity to cause problems as we found out last season when a last minute equaliser was required from Adam Johnson.
If we show the same resolute defending as we did against Liverpool then victory should be within our capabilities with Carlos Tevez in attack. The obvious danger man is Darren Bent now that Kenwyne Jones has departed.
Patrick Vieira and Dedryck Boyata were the two best performers against FC Timisoara but don’t expect either to start at the Stadium of Light. It will be a surprise to see anything other than the same side which beat Liverpool.
Boateng, Balotelli, Kolarov and Bridge are all still missing. Robinho apparently didn’t train on Friday so there’s unlikely to be any surprise inclusion of the Brazilian in the squad.
Despite being at home, Sunderland could set their stall out to frustrate us. The early goal against Liverpool settled us down, but it would be interesting to see how we fared against a packed defence for a longer period. With our attacking full-backs missing, there remains the danger of us failing to attack with sufficient menace down the flanks.
Tevez likes to roam which can result in our attacks lacking a focal point. Having no target man also removes the option of high balls if we’re lacking sufficient guile in our passing.
Faced with difficulties, the main options on the bench would be Adebayor and Silva. Following Ade’s comments about being willing to leave the club, there are big questions about his commitment. With Silva the doubts surround his acclimatisation to the Premier League.
Shaun Wright-Phillips may have scored on Thursday but did little else to suggest he’s a greater threat than Johnson. If Jo appears ahead of Adebayor again, then there has to be a question mark over whether the Togolese will still be at the club when the transfer window closes.
If we are able to get ahead then Mancini may call on Zabaleta or Vieira to help close the game out. Despite the injuries there remains sufficient options for the manager.
Sunderland were unlucky not to win their opening home fixture and shouldn’t be taken lightly. On the plus side, they have yet to form a settled side as their new signings bed in. Nedum Onuoha will be ineligible thanks to the terms of his loan.
“It is important we play football – no long balls but on the floor, shifting the ball quickly. The players I have brought in need to fit the style I want to bring here.
“I have followed all the players I bought many times and know they all have good mentality.”
In terms of how the match might affect our league standing, there’s an opportunity to consolidate a top four place, which would be perfect going into the international break. Tottenham losing at home to Wigan is a bonus result that provides the opportunity to put some early distance between ourselves and a rival for the Champions League places.
Positioning ourselves in the top four, two points off the top, might also convince any possible new signings that we’re a club whose going to be challenging for trophies this season.
Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Richards – K Toure – Kompany – Lescott
de Jong – Barry
A Johnson – Y Toure – Milner
Prediction: 2-0 to City.