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Know Your Opponent: Sunderland

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SUNDERLAND ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Sunderland fans celebrate their goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Newcastle United at Stadium of Light on January 16 2011 in Sunderland England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Sunderland fans celebrate their goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Newcastle United at Stadium of Light on January 16 2011 in Sunderland England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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I love it when Tottenham Hotspur plays teams who have good blogs covering them. In this case, they take on Sunderland, a team covered by Simon Walsh at the awesome blog Roker Report. Simon will be moving his operation over to SBNation in the near future, so this won't be the last you hear from him. Simon also writes a general English Premier League column called "Great Touch For A Blog Man" over at World Soccer Reader.

Today, we had a little chat about the Tottenham-Sunderland match. Check out my answers to his questions here.

Kevin McCauley: First of all, welcome to the family! When can we expect to see Roker Report on SBNation?

Simon Walsh: You should see us on SBNation soon, I believe we're in the final throws of the transfer, and hopefully within the next few weeks we'll be on board, which we're very excited about.

Let's talk about some of Sunderland's players. Lee Cattermole is one of my favorites, when he's not injuring people. It seems like he's calmed down a bit since the beginning of the year, is that true?

Definitely. He's one of my favourites too. I think he has a massively unfair reputation though. He's had a few sendings off this season, but for several of them he's been a victim of his own reputation. When the likes of Steven Gerrard go around elbowing people and England's Brave John Terry referees games, there are bigger issues in the game than Lee Cattermole getting two yellow cards. At the start of the season he was given the captaincy, and perhaps he was too eager to assert authority. As you say though, he's calmed down, and developing into a fine player.

What do you think of your January signings, Stephane Sessegnon and Sulley Muntari?

It's early to judge, but I think both have been superb bits of business. Muntari is a class player, and will definitely bring something new to our midfield. With an agreed fee in his loan clause, I hope we can finish high enough to tie him down to a permanent deal. As for Sessegnon, he seems to be just the type of player we've needed for a while: Someone a bit tricky and unpredictable who can cause problems for defenders. 

Did Steve Bruce make a mistake by not buying any cover for Asamoah Gyan after selling Darren Bent?

Honestly, I don't think so. I'd rather we didn't buy anyone than panic for some like, I dunno, Shefki Kuqi. Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell are expected to return in mid-March, so if we can just get by for a few weeks we'll be fine.

Speaking of Darren Bent, have you seen the legendary picture of him walking out of a hotel with Amy Bruce? What a pimp.

I've seen it yeah, for the money he's on (now) and the attitude he high opinion he seems to have on himself, I thought he'd have aimed a little higher to be honest, seems to have lowered his standards. She obviously loves it though, having previously been rattled by Nicklas Bendtner and Jermaine Pennant (not at the same time, I don't think).

Sunderland played with a back three against Stoke, and while they were undone on set pieces, the formation and team selection was actually very effective. Will Steve Bruce use this again?

I don't think so. Having seen Liverpool use three at the back vs. Stoke effectively, I think Steve had the right idea, but we didn't do the fundamentals. Two defeats in a row for us, and in front of a home crowd, we've got to go for the win and let Spurs worry about us.

If Sunderland get all three points this weekend, do you believe that they can challenge for fifth place? What's the lowest Premier League standing you would be satisfied with?

I don't think we can get 5th. 6th at best, 10th at worst. I targeted the top 10 before the start of the season, and will be fairly happy if we remain in there, but with the way things have gone 8th or below will be tinged with slight disappointment.

Do you believe that Steve Bruce and the ownership will spend heavily if Sunderland qualify for Europe?

According to Brucey himself this week, he has been told he'll be able to spend regardless of league finish. Obviously European football would help attract top names, but he's been told all the Darren Bent money (£24m+) is there for him if he wants it. Plus I'd imagine we'll shift a few on to free up wages (Angeleri, Riveros, etc.)

Finally, predict Sunderland's starting XI for the match

Gordon
Onouha - Ferdinand - Bramble - Bardsley
Malbranque - Muntari
Elmohamady - Richardson - Sessegnon
Gyan

And predict the final score

I said in my own preview on Roker Report that it would be 2-2, but having seen the amount of injuries you guys have, combined with a midweek Champions League game, I think we could walk away with all three. 1-0 to us, Asamoah Gyan scoring again.