Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Championship clash between Sunderland and Birmingham City, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Looking to extend their unbeaten run in the league to three matches, Sunderland will host Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham City at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon in the Championship.
The Black Cats are within striking distance of the top six after four points from their last two games, while Blues are languishing in the bottom half as they search for their first win under the new management....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
After successive losses to Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough, a resurgent Stoke City and second-tier pacesetters Leicester City, Sunderland have done well to bounce back and earn four points from matches against Norwich City and Swansea City over the past fortnight.
The Black Cats rounded off the month of October with a comeback success against David Wagner’s Canaries at the Stadium of Light courtesy of goals from Trai Hume, Daniel Neil and Premier League-linked Jack Clarke, before Tony Mowbray’s side played out a goalless draw in South Wales with Swansea City seven days later.
Following the departures of the likes of Amad Diallo and striker Ross Stewart over the summer, Sunderland have a real fight to replicate last season’s success of finishing inside the division’s playoffs, with the North-East club currently eighth, two points behind sixth-placed Preston North End.
A real hindrance to the Black Cats’ potential push for automatic promotion last term was their inconsistent record at the Stadium of Light, and things have not started so brightly in front of their home faithful so far this campaign, with Mowbray’s side losing three of their seven games at the venue, including a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Boro.
The former top-flight regulars are attempting to nurture a young crop of talent who can eventually break the club back into the Premier League, with 18-year-old Jobe Bellingham signed from Saturday’s visitors in the summer – the England youth international is set to face his boyhood club this weekend.
After Jay Stansfield netted his fifth goal of the second-tier term to open the scoring for Birmingham and Ipswich Town defender Cameron Burgess scored past his own goalkeeper, it appeared as if Rooney’s side would be rewarded for a much-improved performance with all three points against Kieran McKenna’s promotion-chasing Tractor Boys.
Despite a promising display for around 75 minutes, Blues were unable to resist the visitors’ pressure in the final stages last weekend, with attacker Marcus Harness coming off the bench and bagging a quickfire brace, meaning the Second City club were forced to share the spoils with their East Anglian counterparts.
Having collected only one point from his opening four matches at the helm, the St Andrew’s jury is still well and truly out on Manchester United and England legend Rooney, who has committed to a fearless style of football at a club who harbour ambitions of returning to the Premier League.
Blues currently sit 15th in the Championship standings after earning 19 points from their first 15 games, and with sixth-placed Preston now six points away, Saturday’s visitors will need to pick up a maximum sooner rather than later in order to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
Much has been made of the attacking talents of Siriki Dembele and Koji Miyoshi in the early stages of 2023-24, as has the defensive work of captain Dion Sanderson, with the former Wolverhampton Wanderers man and John Ruddy being the only Birmingham players who have started every second-tier fixture so far.
Sunderland Championship form:
Birmingham City Championship form:
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After signing permanently from French champions Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, right-back Timothee Pembele is yet to feature for Sunderland due to a knee injury sustained in October.
Ajibola Alese is another young full-back currently in the medical room for the Black Cats, with the 22-year-old last appearing during the playoff semi-final defeat to Luton Town in May.
Defensive-minded midfielder Corry Evans has been on the sidelines since January due to a cruciate ligament injury, and the Northern Ireland international is said to be targeting a return in the New Year.
Birmingham welcomed back Ethan Laird into their starting XI for the first time since August for the stalemate with Ipswich, and after collecting the Player of the Match award, the right-back will retain his spot in the team.
None of Keshi Anderson, Lee Buchanan and Tyler Roberts will be available for the trip to the Stadium of Light, but the trio of summer arrivals are hoping to return after the international break.
George Hall has returned to first-team training following multiple setbacks during his rehabilitation from a hamstring issue, while fellow academy graduate Alfie Chang has been ruled out for the remainder of the term because of a serious knee injury.
Sunderland possible starting lineup:Patterson; Hume, O’Nien, Ballard, Huggins; Ekwah, Clarke, Bellingham, Neil, Roberts; Semedo
Birmingham City possible starting lineup:Ruddy; Laird, Sanderson, Aiwu, Drameh; Bielik, Sunjic, Bacuna; Miyoshi, Burke, Stansfield
We say: Sunderland 2-1 Birmingham City
Sunderland have struggled at the Stadium of Light at points so far this season, but the visit of an out-of-form Birmingham side represents a good chance to collect maximum points.
Blues are improving slowly as the squad gets accustomed to Rooney’s style of play, although we do not believe that a maiden victory for the new boss is on the cards this weekend.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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Mikel Arteta praises ‘really consistent’ Martin Odegaard
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on captain Martin Odegaard amid his impressive form following the November international break.
The Norway international was sidelined with a hip problem last month and it was followed by another absence due to a head collision in training.
Odegaard made his comeback after the internationals. He had a quiet evening at Brentford last weekend, but was on the scoresheet against Lens on Wednesday.
He carried over the good form into the Wolves game, scoring the vital winning goal in the end.
Aside from his strike, the 24-year-old created three big chances for his teammates and was unlucky to not register an assist or two due to poor finishing.
Speaking after the 2-1 victory over Wolves, Arteta said that Odegaard has had two ‘very very good’ games and he is a ‘really consistent’ player.
The Gunners head coach added that the playmaker tends to fare best against high-pressing sides such as Wolves and he was ‘really good’ today.
He told Arsenal.com: “I thought he had two very, very good games and he’s a really consistent player, he gives a lot especially against teams like that, they didn’t want to defend very close to their own box and I think he was really good today.”
Odegaard has not played with the same creative freedom as last season, but he has still netted seven goals and provided two assists from 18 games.
The Norwegian appears to be picking up his form at the right time and he will be crucial to the Gunners’ chances of challenging for the league title again.
Today’s win has taken the Gunners to 33 points from 14 games. They are four points ahead of second-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com & Sofascore.co
Martin Odegaard was back to his best vs Wolves
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard was back to his best during the 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Gunners made it three league wins on the bounce after beating Wolves at the Emirates Stadium. Bukayo Saka opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
A wonderful bit of team play contributed to Odegaard doubling the lead in the 13th minute.
Arsenal should have been out of sight with the chances in the final third, but they had a nervy finish in the end after Matheus Cunha scored, four minutes from time.
A defensive mishap from Oleksandr Zinchenko paved the way for the goal, but the Gunners managed to hang on for a well-deserved victory over Gary O’Neil’s side.
In our view, Odegaard was clearly the man of the match with one of his best performances of the season.
The Norwegian was inconsistent with his form earlier this campaign, but he appears to be finding his feet at the right time for the Gunners in their title pursuit.
Against Wolves, he had 97 touches with 77 passes at an accuracy of 89 per cent. He had no defensive work to do, but was brilliant with his attacking display.
Odegaard managed six key passes and created three big chances for Gabriel Jesus, Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah respectively, but they failed to extend the lead.
The Gunners should have been out of sight with at least a five-goal margin, but they were made to work hard for the victory after a late consolation strike from Cunha.
The win over Wolves has seen the club extend their lead at the top of the table to four points.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com & Sofascore.com
Serbia’s Hamad Medjedovic crowned Next Gen ATP Finals champion
Twenty-year-old Serbian sixth seed Hamad Medjedovic is crowned the Next Gen ATP Finals champion with a captivating victory over Arthur Fils in Sunday’s final.
Twenty-year-old Serbian sixth seed Hamad Medjedovic was crowned the Next Gen ATP Finals champion with a captivating victory over Arthur Fils in Sunday’s final.
Emulating the feats of his compatriot Novak Djokovic in November’s ATP Finals, Medjedovic brought home another trophy to Serbia with a 3–4, 4–1, 4–2, 3–4 , 4–1 victory in just after two hours.
Medjedovic’s success caps off a stellar breakthrough year for the 2003-born protege, who reached the first round of Wimbledon and the French Open for the first time in 2023 and came close to breaking into the top 100, getting as high as world number 102 in October....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
“I can’t believe I have won this title, but it’s going to give me a lot of confidence for 2024. Arthur is an amazing player; he’s Top 40 for a reason, so I’m really happy,” Medjedovic said on the court.
“It was tough after the first set. I changed my clothes and recovered and started to play good again. I didn’t play good when I had match points in the fourth set. I wasn’t relaxed, I was very stiff. Thank God I recovered and I was just trying to stay relaxed as much as I could and I managed to do it in the end.”
2023 ATP Finals Champion: Novak Djokovic 🇷🇸2023 Next Gen ATP Finals Champion: Hamad Medjedovic 🇷🇸Learning from the best 👀 pic.twitter.com/ie284rcZ3M— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) December 2, 2023
Making a name for himself throughout the tournament with his blistering serves, the Serbian fired 19 aces past Fils throughout the contest and won 88% of points behind his first serve in total.
Medjedovic also kept his mistakes to a minimum, only producing nine unforced errors and 32 winners, as well as saving all four break points he faced against his French foe.
The 20-year-old recovered from a couple of early unforced errors in the fourth-set tie-breaker to bring up two match points, although he failed to take either of them as Fils took the contest to the distance.
However, an inopportune unforced error from Fils on break point allowed Medjedovic to establish an early two-game lead in the fifth set, and the Serbian quintessentially confirmed his champion status with an ace on match point.
Alongside his Next Gen supremacy, Medjedovic also took home three Challenger level titles in the 2023 season, as well as getting to the semi-finals of the Astana Open and Swiss Open on the ATP Tour.
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