Can spirited Sunderland spike Spurs?
Just a few weeks ago the world and his mother were writing off Crystal Palace and Sunderland, both surely doomed to relegation after terrible starts to the season.
Two managerial changes later and it all looks a little different. Palace, with Tony Pulis now in charge, are still favourites to go down (Coral go 2/7), but aren’t considered such certainties for the drop as they were.
And Sunderland, with Gus Poyet taking over from Paulo di Canio, have been showing definite signs of a revival. Two home wins – against fierce local rivals Newcastle and title favourites Manchester City – have lifted the spirits at the Stadium of Light no end and the Black Cats are now out to evens to be relegated (8/11 to stay up).
A 3-4 home defeat to Chelsea in midweek wasn’t too deflating, either. Sunderland gave Jose Mourinho’s men a proper game and might well have got much more out of the encounter had Eden Hazard not chosen to pick that evening to produce a wonderful individual display.
Now it’s another of Poyet’s former clubs, Tottenham, who come calling and the Uruguayan is hopeful of taking advantage of the crisis in confidence now hovering over White Hart Lane.
Yes, they won at Fulham in midweek, but that’s hardly worthy of a lap of honour at the moment; the Cottagers might well soon be favourites to finish bottom themselves if new boss Rene Meulensteen doesn’t turn things around in a hurry.
Sunderland’s main problem this season has been conceding goals, especially at home, but with Spurs’ strikers unable to hit a cow’s bum with a banjo at the moment, this is one match where they may get away with some dodgy defending.
American Jozy Altidore was having troubles of his own in front of goal until finally opening his account on Wednesday; Coral go 11/4 he’s on the scoresheet again (8/1 first or last).
Or perhaps it will be one of the back four who makes the difference. Full back Phil Bardsley, who has scored four times this season – two for and two against – is 9/1 to net at the right end at any time this evening, while John O’Shea, also on the mark against Chelsea, is 12/1 to score again.
Whoever gets the job done, I suspect everyone at Sunderland (100/30) will have more to celebrate after the teatime clash, while also bringing the pressure back on Andre Villas-Boas, 6/1 with Coral to be the next Premiership manager to go.