Premier League Preview: Sunderland v. Southampton

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  • Sunderland haven’t lost to Southampton since 2003.
  • The clubs drew opening day at St. Mary’s.
  • Black Cats worse at home (2W-1D-7L) than on road

Really, it’s a tale of two teams who’ve dealt with controversy this week and this year to varying degrees  (Watch at 7:45am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra).. Sunderland are coming off a 4-1 win, have nearly escaped the drop zone and have League Cup success under their belts, but have already endured a manager change in addition to firing their director of football today.

Southampton started off a movie-like run in this year’s Premier League season only to have this week’s controversial departure of Nicola Cortese put a cap on recent on-field struggles. He left amidst a power struggle with the team owner, leaving Saints supporters terrified that Mauricio Pochettino would fulfill his promise to leave if Cortese departed (He didn’t).

Thanks the huddled masses at the bottom half of the table, Southampton’s recent struggles still see them in ninth place. The Saints are seven points ahead of No. 10 Hull City and just three behind Newcastle. Yes, they’re just 2-1-3 in their last six, but the losses have come against Spurs, Everton and Everton.

The controversial owner, by the way, is Katherine Liebherr and she’s said no one’s leaving in the transfer window. Wonder how much comfort that is to supporters as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana’s names continue to be bandied about on a daily basis in the rumor mill?

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How trying has this year been for Sunderland? Poyet joked that the three-goal win over Fulham was the only time he’s not worried about stoppage time since he’s gotten the job. Adam Johnson provided the hat trick and is starting to get England talk again. Surely a strong showing against Lallana and company would go a long way for Roy Hodgson.

Sunderland’s 9 points in their last six games give them Top 8 form, and the Stadium of Light should be rocking for the Black Cats opportunity to say “Peace” to the relegation zone, at least for a week.

Look out for Southampton after the break, as Sunderland has a dreadful minus-6 goal differential from the 46th-60th minute of matches this season.

The Saints haven’t beaten Sunderland since seizing the season series in 2002/03. Sunderland went 1-1-0 when both teams were in the Championship in 2006/07, while they have a win and two draws in PL play since Southampton were promoted in 2012. Sunderland also knocked the Saints out of the League Cup on Nov. 6 at the Stadium of Light.

What They’re Saying

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on Southampton: “ It’s a difficult game against a difficult team. They have a solid system of play, quick, technical players and some power. It is one of those games where we need to be really spot on. We need a little bit more than normal. Saying that there’s no excuses, we are in a situation where we can go and put on another good performance and get another victory, which would be amazing.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino on dealing with Cortese’s departure: “It’s hard to predict what is going to be the effect on the players. It’s clear that it may affect the players as they all have varying degrees of relationship with Nicola Cortese, and of course his leaving may affect us in some way. In those situations it’s clear that maybe some minds will be focused on what happened yesterday [Wednesday] rather than on Sunderland on Saturday, but we have to be professional. We have to be fully focused on the game on Saturday and as always, to try and get a positive result.”

Prediction

Look for the Saints to give their supporters a lift at the Stadium of Light. I’m not buying Poyet’s charges just yet and Lallana has been a devastating force to oppositions in recent weeks (Imagine those fantasy footballers who bought him at 6.0 pounds to see his value at 7.5 now. Who would be so smart, so deft?). Southampton 3, Sunderland 1.

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

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Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

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Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”