At about midnight central time, I clicked "new story" on my Cartilage Free Captain dashboard with the intention of writing a preview of Tuesday's match between Sunderland and Spurs. I was completely distracted and ended up getting into a debate with Ryan Rosenblatt for an extended period of time in the SBNation Soccer editor's room. I thought that it was a quality argument and it would end up as good material for this match's preview. This is our conversation, slightly edited for easier readability. If you want to read Ryan's short preview for the main site, you can check it out here.
Kevin McCauley: Ryan, I'm less optimistic than you about Spurs' chances tomorrow.
Kevin McCauley: I can't bring myself to predict a win.
Ryan Rosenblatt: I'm looking at a 2-1 Spurs win for two reasons. One, Spurs have the best player on the pitch in Gareth Bale and two, Sunderland is a pretty horrid team away from home.
Kevin McCauley: They are, but look at our potential lineup, dude. We might be starting Pav and Crouch up top together. And David Bentley. David freaking Bentley.
Kevin McCauley: Obviously Bale is great but if he doesn't pull a rabbit out of his hat, how are we going to score?
Ryan Rosenblatt: First of all, don't discount the possibility of Sunderland being distracted by Bentley's hair. Have you ever seen a man with hair so perfectly styled and never coming out of place?
Kevin McCauley: We discussed this earlier, Al McInnis.
Ryan Rosenblatt: The fact is that Sunderland is a poor team away from home. Their two draws this season were at Blackburn and Liverpool. Blackburn is bad no matter where they're playing and their draw against Liverpool was in the midst of the Reds terrible run when they couldn't do anything right. They're winless away from home and look as bad as their results indicate, never moreso than their 5-1 loss at Newcastle.
Kevin McCauley: That was a derby, though. I think you can throw derbies out the window, especially since they won the following game 2-0. I know their road form kind of sucks, but they actually haven't lost on the road since August. They have draws against Manchester United and Arsenal, as well as the ones you mentioned, and they beat Manchester City and Aston Villa. Home or road, that's indicitive of some quality.
Ryan Rosenblatt: They won a grand total of two matches away from home last season so this isn't new. Of course they have added some nice quality this season, but at some point you need to get results away from home. At the Stadium of Light Sunderland will put the screws to you, as they did to Spurs last season, but prove it away from home. Until they do, I'm not a believer.
Kevin McCauley: Last season, they didn't have Gyan, Mignolet, Al-Muhammadi, or Onouha. The latter two of those players are going to be key to slowing down Gareth Bale, and therefore, our entire attack with our squad options looking pretty poor. And do you remember how bad Craig Gordon was last year? I don't think that last year's results are that relevant.
Ryan Rosenblatt: I acknowledged that they have added some pretty good quality, but it has led to just four goals away from home this season and that is with Darren Bent, who will not play against Spurs. Sunderland is better equipped to deal with Bale than most clubs, but he is still going to get free a couple times, getting himself a goal and as unimpressive as he looks, Roman Pavlyuchenko still has a good track record of poaching goals. Plus, whenever Pav gets his first start after a while without one he always plays well before going into his traditional malaise the following week.
Kevin McCauley: So, it looks like we're going to see Pav and Crouch together up top. I think this is a recipe for disaster, but it's not like the other options are that good. Gio just can't handle the physical demands of the league and Keano is toast, but I think that starting one of the two with Pav has to be our best option with VDV and Defoe both out.
Ryan Rosenblatt: Well Keano looks to be out with an ankle injury, but sure, why not give Gio a chance? He can not score just as well as any of our other strikers.
Kevin McCauley: He can not score with flash and pace. He can not score in a way that makes you think he might eventually be able to score.
Kevin McCauley: He'll lose the ball 15 times in the process.
Kevin McCauley: But he'll not score in a much more entertaining way than Peter Crouch.
Ryan Rosenblatt: His hair waving in the wind also makes him look like he's running fast as well. Aesthetics is the key here considering the missing quality.
Kevin McCauley: If we start Gio AND Bentley, we might have the widest hair quality : footballer quality ratio in the Premier League.
Ryan Rosenblatt: Don't forget to give Benny a mention as well. He looks dashing coming forward from left back.
Kevin McCauley: Sandro needs to grow out a gigantic afro.
Ryan Rosenblatt: Or Bale can go back to his floppy teenage hair and Woodgate can make the never-going-to-happen comeback?
Kevin McCauley: This conversation now has nothing to do with Spurs-Sunderland. Let's bring it back to the topic at hand to wrap it up.
Kevin McCauley: Just kidding. What's your favorite thing to eat with tortilla chips?
Ryan Rosenblatt: Anything with guacamole. If you're reading ladies, guacamole is the way to my heart.
So, Ryan thinks that Sunderland will continue to suck on the road because they're Sunderland and they suck on the road. I am a Negative Nancy and think that our personnel matches up poorly with theirs with our current injuries. It will be an interesting match, to say the least.
Projected Tottenham Hotspur Lineup (4-4-2): Gomes / Assou-Ekotto, Bassong, Kaboul, Hutton / Bale, Huddlestone, Modric, Bentley / Crouch, Pavlyuchenko
Projected Sunderland Lineup (4-4-2): Mignolet / Bardsley, Mensah, Turner, Onouha / Malbranque, Henderson, Cattermole, Elmohamady / Welbeck, Gyan
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Sunderland