Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • Sunderland have not beaten United in the league for 22 years
  • Manchester United have won the last five games vs. the Black Cats
  • The Mackems have picked up just three points in their last 10 PL games

On Saturday afternoon at the Stadium of Light, beleaguered Sunderland take on a Manchester United (12:30pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) also struggling at the start of the season.

However the Black Cats’ situation seems much worse, with Sunderland rock bottom of the table with just one point from their opening six games.

As for United, new manager David Moyes has had an acrimonious start to the campaign, with three defeats from their opening six games. Those losses came against Liverpool, Manchester City and most surprisingly, West Brom last weekend. Moyes will be looking for a reaction from his side, especially after letting a 1-0 lead slip late on against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday.

In the dugout for Sunderland, Kevin Ball will again be taking charge on an interim basis, as the Mackems board searches for their long-term replacement for Paolo Di Canio. Following the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at home last Sunday, Sunderland could very quickly become cut off from the rest of the league at the bottom of the table. Favorites for the vacant managers job include Gus Poyet and Tony Pulis, amongst others.

On the injury front, the home side have no fresh worries, with Steven Fletcher still recovering from his shoulder injury. As for Untied, Rio Ferdinand and Tom Cleverley could miss out but Wilfried Zaha, Anderson and Fabio could all return.

Expect a tough battle up in the North East, with the Mackems scrapping for their lives and United eager to climb back into PL title contention.

What they’re saying

David Moyes on Sunderland’s struggles: “There is a long way to go in the Premier League. It’s a long season. You’ll see great changes as the season goes on. We’ll hang in there and get ourselves as close to the top as soon as we can. You never can tell at clubs but you’re always disappointed when people lose their jobs. I don’t know the ins and outs of Sunderland and the workings of it. You never like to see people lose their job.”

Moyes on Manchester United’s poor start: “We need to concentrate on the Premier League now and getting back on track. We have really good players, they know the standards they’ve set and together we’ll work to get it right. In any new job you learn as you go, and I’m in that position as well. I knew they were good players, but there will be difficult times as well.”

Jozy Altidore on what Sunderland must do to win: “I can’t wait, it will be a great experience to play them. For me though it’s another opportunity to give everything that I have for the fans and everything that I have for the club then hopefully we can get that first win because it’s all that matters. It has been incredible to play in some of the games that I have and to play in front of our fans and in our amazing stadium every weekend. Obviously I want to hit the back of the net but if we can keep the intensity up then we’re going to score a lot of goals.”

Prediction

All signs lead to an away win, despite Manchester United’s recent poor form in the Premier League. Sunderland still haven’t got a manager and with Untied wounded and ready to launch themselves back towards the top of the Premier League, I would expect a reaction from them. But after a long trip to Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday and also letting in a late equalizer, this could be a good time to play United. Expect another stumbling display, but a Manchester United win.

Court hearing opens into spectators attacking referees

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.

A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.

The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.

Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.

An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.

“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.

“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.

The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.

Morata has a warning for Chelsea’s Premier League rivals

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Alvaro Morata believes his fast start to life in the Premier League at Chelsea is only a taster of what is to come.

[ MORE: Who is the PL’s most complete striker? ]

After scoring a hat trick at Stoke City on Saturday in Chelsea’s 4-0 win, Morata spoke to reporters about the chances he missed and admitted he could have had five goals to his name.

The Spanish striker, 24, is clearly not content with simply replacing Diego Costa at Chelsea.

“I am happy with my start in the Premier League but I can do better,” Morata said. “I had two chances at the end of the game against Stoke [but didn’t take them]. I also need to improve my physical condition to be as good as possible.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Can do better. Six goals in your first six Premier League games is a pretty decent return, Alvaro.

Still, you can see what he’s saying. Morata has looked good in fits and starts so far this season but his undeniable quality is there for all to see. He scored three goals and added two assists with his head before Saturday’s breakout where he proved he can also score with his feet.

Morata struggled against Arsenal 10 days ago as he seemed isolated up top and the physicality of the Premier League seems to still surprise him at times.

It is still early days for the Spanish international who joined for $77.8 million (which could rise to $93.9 million) but the way in which he accelerated past Stoke’s defense on his first and second goals, then finished coolly reminded us all that of his schooling at Real Madrid and Juventus.

Morata is now undeniably a contender for the Golden Boot and looks like a more refined, agile replacement for Costa. His quickness of thought and elegance has replaced the brute force and desire of Costa and it seems like it will work out just fine.

Jose Mourinho on Man United’s midfield injury crisis

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Jose Mourinho has been speaking in Moscow ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

[ MORE: UCL team news for PL clubs ]

The Man United boss has had a positive start to the new season with seven wins from nine games in all competitions as his side are second in the Premier League table only on goal difference.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

That said, injuries are mounting up for the Red Devils, particularly in central midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick are all missing for United’s trip to CSKA.

“We don’t have Fellaini. We don’t have Pogba. We don’t have Carrick. All three midfield players that we lose for this match. The solutions are not many,” Mourinho said. “We are trying not to focus on individual battles in specific areas on the pitch. We are going to have a team with quality and balance to try to win the match. That’s our objective.”

What are Mourinho’s solutions to plug these gaps?

Ander Herrera will likely start in central midfield alongside Nemanja Matic which should be enough but given the extent of the injuries to both Pogba and Fellaini they will also have to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Fellaini was injured by Southampton’s Shane Long on Saturday and Mourinho confirmed the Belgian midfielder would not play again before the international break.

“Fellaini was lucky. It could be a much worse situation but in a moment where we don’t have Pogba and Carrick he becomes even more important than he always is. I expect Fellaini not to be out for a long time,” Mourinho added.

As for Mourinho, he was asked about the decision by the English Football Association to take no further action after he was sent to the stands late on in United’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.

“If I am not punished it is because there are no reasons for the sending off,” Mourinho said. “I am happy that it is recognized and I can do my work normally against Crystal Palace. That’s enough for me.”

Report: Benjamin Mendy has more tests on knee injury

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Benjamin Mendy‘s knee injury seems a little worse than Manchester City first feared.

Mendy, 23, came off in the first half of City’s 5-0 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday after a tackle with Andros Townsend and initial scans on his swollen knee were inconclusive.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Now, multiple reports state that Mendy has flown to Barcelona to meet with renowned knee surgeon Ramon Cugat for more tests and scans as City fear ligament damage.

That could mean months out of action for the $75 million left back who joined from AS Monaco this summer.

If Mendy is to spend a long period of time on the sidelines it would be a big blow for Man City as the French international has brought balance and real quality to the left back role.

Marauding forward whenever he gets the chance and whipping in delicious crosses, Mendy has been a revelation on the pitch and off it he has already captured the hearts of City’s fans with his social media antics.

Guardiola does have Danilo who can slot in comfortably to the left back role and also hinted at Fabian Delph playing in that role with City facing Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League this week and then traveling to Chelsea on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).