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It is not usual that a manager of Real Madrid at the start of the season would end up being the manager of a side currently battling out a relegation fight.

Jermain Defoe talks about the Rafa Benitez factor
However, Rafael Benitez is currently facing that unusual situation. The former Liverpool manager replaced Steve McClaren few days back as Newcastle manager but had to be content with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Premier league leaders Leicester City in his first game in charge.

However, if that was difficult, it is not going to get any easy for the former Chelsea manager with Sunderland their next opponents. In the current battles between the two arch rivals, Sunderland have come out on top more often than not.

Although Newcastle may be slight favorites going into this one due to the presence of Benitez and the fact that they are playing at home, Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe believes that the hosts are very much under pressure in this one.

Sunderland are currently one point ahead of the Magpies and Defoe believes that , although Benitez is an experienced manager, the former Valencia manager has never experienced a relegation fight. He added that he felt Newcastle were quite solid in the game against Leicester but believes that the amount of things that a manager can do has a limit.

The former Tottenham striker feels that the onus is on Newcastle to win the derby since they are the team who are in the bottom three unlike the Black Cats.

Sunderland have signed former Arsenal right back Emmanuel Eboue for the rest of the campaign.

Sunderland have signed Emmanuel Eboué on a free transfer until the end of the season.
The former Ivory Coast International has been training with the squad for few weeks and Sam Allardyce believes the 32 year old can help their cause in the Premier league.

The Black Cats are currently fighting a relegation battle and former West Ham manager Allardyce believes that the experience of Eboue in the Champions league and Premier league will certainly help the team to fight off relegation.

Eboue, who has played for around six and half seasons with Arsenal, was let go by Galatasaray last summer. He impressed Allardyce in the trials and the Sunderland manager stated that Eboue is a terrific player and his fitness should certainly be enough for him to be a success in the Premier league.

After the shambolic tenure under Dick Advocaat, Sunderland looks to have a good chance under Allardyce, who specializes in relegation battles. Their next match would be against fierce rivals and fellow relegation strugglers Newcastle United on March 20.

When Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates arrived at Liverpool a few years ago, he was regarded as one for the future for the Reds, as a possible replacement for the departing Carragher. However, it has not been an ideal time for the young defender.

Sebastian Coates has joined Sporting Lisbon on loan for the rest of the season.
A lack of first team opportunities forced Coates to move to Sunderland on loan in the summer of 2014. The loan move was then made permanent due to some impressive performances in the summer transfer window of 2015. However, it seems the arrival of Sam Allardyce has changed the course of the career of Coates.

The Sunderland defender has recently moved to Sporting Lisbon on loan until the remainder of this season. One of the main reasons for such a move was the arrival of Ivory Coast Intenational Kone to the Sunderland squad in this transfer window. Apart from that, the other reason cited by Allardyce was that he needed to keep a check on the increasing wage bills in order to adhere to financial fair play regulations.

Hence, Coates was sacrificed for the rebuilding job that has been adopted at the club by Allardyce. Hopefully, the manager who has been known for his direct style and his skill at saving clubs from relegation will certainly hope his latest gamble works out for the good with respect to the Black Cats.

The Arsenal defender has been down in team sheet, after Hector Bellerin making that position his own. However, the French international wants a move out of Emirates this transfer window itself, either on permanent basis or a loan move.

Sunderland keen on luring out-of-favour Mathieu Debuchy to the Stadium of Light
He has earlier spoke of his desire to leave Arsenal in search of more game time to make his place in France national team ahead of Euro cup 2016.

Aston Villa were tracking him for a long time and they also contacted Arsenal for a possible loan switch. But Arsenal want a permanent switch and so the rivals of Aston Villa, Sunderland are planning to hijack the move.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce travelled to London and with no miracles expected, Debuchy will probably to head to Sunderland.

Both Aston Villa and Sunderland have been shipping goals are eager to bolster their respective leaky defence. They have conceded 38 and 46 goals respectively, with the latter being the worst in the league.

Also, Sunderland have an upper hand in the chase for the French international as Aston Villa may soon sack their manager Remi Garde, which will leave the transfer works to turmoil.

Arsenal will be kicking off their FA cup defence against a Sunderland side that have been ragged in the last few days. The gunners have won the tournament on the last two occasions and there is no particular reason why they cannot defend it again.

Arsenal vs Sunderland : Preview
Unlike the past few seasons, Arsenal have certainly much to look forward, apart from the FA cup, this season. They are on top of the Premier league and would definitely give much more importance to the title chase than the FA cup. However, for this particular third round match, Wenger will not be so worried about a Sunderland who have not really got going even under Sam Allardyce.

Although the game is at the Emirates, Sunderland would be looking to cause an upset with the team gaining some confidence after beating fellow premier league strugglers Aston Villa in their last league game. However, Allardyce will know that it will take a lot of effort for the black cats to defeat even an under strength Arsenal side, who may have an eye towards their clash against Liverpool in the league.

Arsenal, apart from their long term absentees would be without Sanchez with Arteta and Rosicky most likely to make a return. Sunderland on the other hand have relatively lesser injury worries with Kaboul and Larsson expected to return later this month and the extent of the injury caused to Rodwell still unknown.

Possible Line ups:

Arsenal Starting 11:
Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Ox-Chamberlain, Campbell, Ozil, Walcott

Sunderland Starting 11:
Pantilimon, O'Shea, Yedlin, Coates, Van Aanholt, Cattermole, M'Vila , Borini, Toivonen, Watmore, Defoe

Predicted Score:

Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland



Liverpool travel to the Stadium of lights as they look to build upon the 1-0 win against Leicester City on Boxing Day. The Reds were unlikely winners on their last match against the table toppers and Jurgen Klopp will now look to stabilize the squad after a shaky start to his reign at the Anfield.

Preview: Sunderland vs Liverpool
Meanwhile Sunderland are deep down in the relegation zone and a win is pivotal if they have to stay in Premier League.

Liverpool are tenth in the League table with 27 points and a win against Sunderland could leapfrog West Ham United to seventh position, equaling the points haul of Manchester United. However, Klopp is desperate for his team to continue winning and gain the confidence. Christian Benteke scored against Leicester and with Origi sidelined due to injury; Benteke is expected to start against Sunderland.

Sunderland have only 12 points after completing 18 games and are facing a do-or-die situation. With a seven point gap separating them from the safe zone, it is highly improbable for the Black Cats to avoid relegation, particularly with this form.

Liverpool are expected to come out of this fixture as winners, considering their impressive history against the Sunderland

Predicted Starting Line-up

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Brown, Coates, Bedling, Kaboul, Yedlin, Larsson, Cattermole, M'Villa, Defoe, Fletcher

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson, Milner, Coutinho, Lallana, Ibe, Benteke

The Post Mourinho Era for Chelsea kicked off with a comfortable win against Sunderland. With Guus Hiddink in the VIP box along with Drogba and Abramovich, it may have felt like an opportunity for the players to showcase their commitment in front of their new manager.

FULL-TIME Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland. Ivanovic, Pedro & Oscar help Chelsea return to winning ways in front of Guus Hiddink 
It could also have been thought of as a long evening for the players with the fans certainly showing their support for their previous manager. However, Chelsea flew off to a great start. They were quite dominant in those early stages against a Sunderland defence which looked ragged to say the least. Their dominance was reflected in the score line as well.

Within the first 13 minutes, Chelsea scored twice and that is something which has been very rarely witnessed this season. The first one was through a corner wherein Ivanovic powerfully headed past Pantilimon. The second was through a firm strike by Pedro with Chelsea showing some good movement in that final third. It was not only the goals but also the way Chelsea played that surprised most of them. There were certain sections of the crowd certainly questioning the absence of this attitude under Mourinho.

The first half certainly delineated why this squad were champions last season. It only got better in the second half when Pantilimon tripped Willian in the box with Oscar calmly converting the resulting penalty. However, the uncertainty that has plagued the Chelsea defence all season came to light again in the first goal. Borini tapped home from close range after some horrendous marking by the Chelsea defenders for the free kick. It turned out to be a mere consolation though, with Chelsea being able to see out the game quite comfortably.

However, this game certainly had more importance than just the three points. The fans are certainly unhappy with the attitude of the players who they believe were clearly responsible for the removal of their favorite manager. They certainly showed it in their behavior towards Fabregas and Costa while they were being substituted. This is just a start and it will certainly be a tall order for Hiddink to lift the spirit of this squad and win the support of the fans,

Chelsea welcome Sunderland this Saturday, with both teams desperate to get back to winning ways. The reigning champions are currently 16th in Premier League, having garnered only 15 points from 16 games. Meanwhile things are worse for Sunderland, who sit just above 20th position with 12 points.

Preview: Chelsea vs Sunderland
Jose Mourinho and his team have failed to replicate last season's resolute performances, which forced the club to part company with the Portuguese. The team has already lost nine league games, with a bunch of star players like Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa not performing up to their potential. The dismal run of games has seen them winning only once in their last seven Premier League outings.

The Black cats are in an equally miserable scenario as Chelsea. Sam Allardyce was appointed to rescue them from relegation positions, but with a mixed run of form he has only been able to help themselves one position up, to 19th spot. They have conceded 30 goals, the league’s second worst this season.

Both teams have almost the full squad available to select from. However, with the comfort of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea is likely to be rewarded with a win in this fixture.

Chelsea starting lineup (4-2-3-1 formation): Courtois; Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Terry; Hazard, Willian; Ramires, Oscar, Matic; Costa

Sunderland starting lineup (5-4-1 formation): Pantilimon; O'Shea, Yedlin, Jones, van Aanholt, Coates; Watmore, Borini, M'Vila, Toivonen; Fletcher

Manchester United were held to a stalemate at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, as the visitors now having a tally of just one point from two Premier League matches.





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Frustrating: Manchester United have only picked up 1 point from 2 matches

Having lost their opener to Swansea, shockingly, Manchester United came into this match hoping to set things right. However, prior to the match, United were dealt a massive setback, as their main midfielder Ander Herrera had been sidelined for 6 weeks with an ankle injury.

Unfortunately, that meant that Van Gaal barely had any options left in midfield, as we could see in the starting line-up, because Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley were starting in the middle of the park against Sunderland.

Evidently, things did not go well in this match, despite Manchester United starting three world class players in attack: Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata. A midfield duo consisting of Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell, who also scored Sunderland's equalizer, overran United's weak, fragile duo of Fletcher and Cleverley.

It was clear, once again, that United's defence and midfield needed some serious reinforcements. With about 7 players injured, United's squad depth right now looks as thin as paper, and it will be joy to the ears of Manchester United fans if they do indeed sign midfielders like Daley Blind and Nigel de Jong, who they want apparently according to ESPN.

Player Ratings
David de Gea: 7/10
Had little to do for the whole match, as  Sunderland barely threatened the goal apart from the goal, which he could do nothing about. Decent distribution.

Antonio Valencia: 6/10
Offered very little creativity in attack, although he did provide Juan Mata with a fantastic drilled cross. Covered well defensively, his pace allowed him to get back into position when himself or his teammates were caught out. Left his man unmarked for Sunderland's equalizer, which is just another example of how he is not the best defensively. That is concerning, because he is not the best offensively, either.

Chris Smalling: 6/10
Looked very nervy at the start, diving into a couple of challenges rashly. Looked uncomfortable on the ball, and passing it, but he is still one of United's top defenders, and they won't be pleased at all seeing him go off injured.

Phil Jones: 8/10
Once again, Jones was the main man in United's defense. He made a couple of brilliant last ditch challenges and darted forward when he got the chance, trying to contribute to the attack. Has easily been United's defender in these opening matches, and they will not want him to get injured.

Tyler Blackett: 7/10
Very composed on the ball for someone of his age, and the composure was once again there today. Played very maturely, and defended quite well. His pace allowed him to get back when he was caught out of position. His distribution and composure on the ball are attributes which impress me most.

Ashley Young: 5.5/10
Another ordinary performance from him. Offers next to nothing going forward, his crosses are fairly inaccurate and is often caught out of position, which gifts the opposition glorious chances. Will be lucky to be on the bench when Luke Shaw comes back to fitness and Marcos Rojo is available for selection.

Darren Fletcher: 5/10
Another dire performance from Manchester United's vice captain. Made a rash of a couple of simple passes towards the beginning of the match, and was caught in possession too many times. United definitely need to upgrade on him, he cannot be their defensive midfielder for longer.

Tom Cleverley: 5/10
As usual, Cleverley was lacking confidence. In short, he lacked everything a midfielder at a 'big club' requires; those requirements being confidence, technical ability and vision. Offered none of that today.

Juan Mata: 6/10
Despite snatching his goal, Mata once again struggled to break down the opposition's defense, which was his main job. Is it just me or have his free-kicks/corners gone down in quality since last season?

Wayne Rooney: 6/10
Unfortunately, Rooney was unable to get involved in the game much. Barely had any chances, and was living off scraps.

Robin van Persie: 6/10
Similar to Rooney, van Persie was also unable to get involved at all, and he was also living off scraps. One small positive would be to see him back on the pitch.

Adnan Januzaj: 5.5/10
Was brought on in place of Fletcher, in the unfamiliar role of CM. Didn't do anything wrong, just looked too uncomfortable playing there, which is understandable.

Danny Welbeck: 6/10
Like the other strikers, he too was largely uninvolved but put in a lot of effort trying to chase down lost causes.

Michael Keane: 6/10
Made a bizarre error whilst trying to head the ball clear, which will unfortunately be the highlight of his performance. His young, defensive counterpart looks much more likely to be featuring this campaign, despite a fairly good and solid performance from Michael.


This fixture stands out for different reasons but none more captivating than the emergence of Adnan Januzaj's full Premier League career debut. The young Belgium international burst onto the scene by scoring a double at the Stadium of Light. For the Sunderland fans its a tale of how they managed to spoil Ryan Giggs' party and knocking reaching the Capital One Cup final.

Calls from the management, past and current players saying do not panic and be patient to the Manchester United fans. The Old Trafford outfit lost to Swansea in their opening game of the season. United may have to move away from the current system which requires three defenders.  Why? Manchester United simply do not have the personnel.  To add to Louis Van Gaal's challenge the side will be without new-signing Marcos Rojo and more than half a dozen injured first team players. A boost on the fitness side is Dutch Captain Robin van Persie is back after a mixed bag of World Cup performances. This adds a bite to what was a sterile Manchester United attack last week.

Gus Poyet is feeling bullish and having taken a couple of Manchester United scalps last season including that dramatic Capital One Cup semi-final at Old Trafford. Poyet has stressed that his new players adapt to tactics against big sides fast. Sunderland feel they have the mental edge over United and will probably seek to exploit the space behind the back three. Looking forward to a battle between Jack Rodwell and Tom Cleverly who I expect to replace the injured Ander Herrera.

United will have too much quality and with the return of van Persie who will need to hit the ground running, combining with Juan Mata and captain Rooney could get away with an away win.

Manchester United to win by two goals.

Article contributed by: Benedict Chanakira

Twitter: @bchanakira2

Jack Rodwell was once hailed as England's next star midfielder. Some even called him Steven Gerrard's perfect successor. The whole country dreamed of the day when Jack Wilshere and Jack Rodwell played alongside each other in the English kit, and destroyed midfields which have conquered England's for so long. At the time, Rodwell was playing for Everton under David Moyes, who had unearthed the talent from Everton's academy. It seemed like Jack Rodwell had it all; he could tackle, he could fit into Moyes' passing game, he could press, and he could undoubtedly score some thumping goals. Fast forward a few years, and here we see Jack Rodwell signing for Sunderland, after spending 2 disastrous years at Manchester City. What went wrong in the young star's career?
Rodwell went from being a young star to an outcast

In 2012, Jack Rodwell signed for Manchester City, from Everton, where he had impressed ever since he made his debut back in 2007 while he was just 16 years old. I personally thought that Rodwell would excel during his time at the Etihad. Roberto Mancini needed someone to partner Yaya Toure in midfield, and despite also having Nigel de Jong and Javi Garcia at the club, I did think that Rodwell would start over them. I had never been so wrong.

During his two year stay at Manchester City, Rodwell only made 16 appearances. This was partly due to the amount of injuries he suffered, and partly because there were now plenty of better midfielders than him at the club. There was no place for Rodwell in the side or the bench, and the only useful thing about him was the fact that he would be counted in the Manchester City 'Homegrown' category, allowing City to cope the Financial Fair Play rules.

Now, finally Rodwell's injury plagued tenure at City has come to an end. The England international put pen to paper with Sunderland last night, and will be hoping to resurrect his career at the Stadium of Light. But will that be possible?
Jack Rodwell has signed for Sunderland


Unfortunately, it is very likely that Rodwell will never again be the player that impressed everyone during his time at Everton. He has spent too much time playing for the City Reserves and on the sidelines. There is, however, a small chance that Rodwell could be half the player he was thought to be at this age, and if Rodwell fulfills half of the potential he had, Sunderland would have made a bargain signing.

At the tender age of 23, Rodwell could well manage to turn his career around, however unlikely it may seem. But for that to happen, Gus Poyet must ensure that he gives the lad a major confidence boost, which is something he will undoubtedly need after the disastrous spell he had with Manchester City, as well as regular minutes on the pitch. With midfielder Jack Colback leaving the club, Rodwell could find himself thrown on to the pitch straight away, which he must have been missing for so long.

Gus Poyet faces a massive challenge himself. Without the needed reinforcements in the form of Ki Sung Yeung and Jack Colback in midfield, Poyet depends on Rodwell being fit otherwise his only central midfield pairing will have to be Craig Gardner and Lee Cattermole, a midfield duo who aren't exactly ideal for the Black Cats.

Sunderland will be desperately hoping that they don't get involved in the relegation dogfight again this time around, but in order to do that, they will need to bring out the best from the waning bright light of Jack Rodwell. Will Rodwell reshape his career and live up to his potential, or will he just be another name added to the list of disappointing young English talents who faded away alongside David Bentley?

Written by Mayank Tiwary. Twitter: @VanPerseing

West Ham want Micah Richards at Upton Park

According to Daily Mail, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce wants to sign the English right-back to the club.

The defender has been suffering with injuries and to find a starting place in the Manchester City squad for a long time. He has just made 10 appearances in this season.

Richards has just one year left in his contract and is willing to move on in search of regular games.

However, the player's £80,000-a-week wage amount will prove to act has a hindrance.

Phil Bardsley in action for Sunderland

The club is also considering Sunderland right-back Phil Bardsley, who has a deal at the Stadium of Light which expires at the end of this season..

According to Daily Mirror, West Ham are trying to sign 28 years old Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley.



Bardsley will out of contract this summer and could leave Sunderland if they are relegated from the Premier League.

Bardsley would have to take a 40 per cent pay cut to stay at Sunderland if he still plans to stay after relegation scenario.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is hoping to sing him of for free so that Bardsley could be offered a lucrative contract and signing-on fee.

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