Date: 21st August 2009 at 2:08pm
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With Sunderland aiming for a top half finish, home fixtures against teams like Blackburn will be seen as must win games.

Last season, the Black Cats dropped too many points at home against teams in the bottom half of the league, with Blackburn taking a point home with them after their visit last December.

Sunderland lost their opening home fixture in midweek, although that was against Chelsea, a game that the majority of fans expected to see the club lose. However, Steve Bruce will hope to continue to win over the more sceptical Sunderland fans with a victory. A win would also see Sunderland have their best ever start to a Premier League season.

Danny Collins knows the importance of this fixture already: ‘For us, I think a top-half finish would be a reasonable achievement.

‘I can’t see any reason why we can’t finish 10th or above.

‘But if we are to do that, these are the type of fixtures we need to win – against the teams I think will be in and around us.

‘We did well to beat Bolton. When you look at them over the last few seasons, the top teams have never liked going there – the likes of Arsenal and who have you.

‘But we took all three points and that was a great start.

‘I think Blackburn will be a similar type of game to the Bolton game – very physical. That’s the way Sam likes his sides to play.

‘We know it’s going to be a tough game, but if we can play to our potential and get the ball down again, hopefully we’ll have enough to come away with the points.’

Vital Quotes:

Speaking to reporters, manager Steve Bruce said: ‘It’s pretty good news as far as the injuries are concerned.

‘Steed seems to have shaken off the ankle injury he picked up at Bolton on the opening day of the season, and he will train today.

‘Kieran got through the Chelsea game, although he was suffering from the effects of a dead leg, but he should be okay for tomorrow.

‘And Lorik’s problem with his hand and Lee’s straining of his back shouldn’t keep them out of the game.

‘I expect all four to be available for tomorrow’s match, and I’m pleased with that, because you need a strong team when you are facing a side managed by Sam Allardyce.

‘I think they have got an advantage in the fact that they haven’t played a midweek game, and will have benefited from the rest.

‘It will be a real test for us, but I’m not a big one for making too many changes if I can help it.

‘And although it will be asking a lot to ask some players to play such an intense three games inside a week, I’m happier to do that, because I know the players are keen to play, and it is an important game for us.’

Sunderland Team News:

Steed Malbranque has returned to training after injuring an ankle and could return to the starting XI, replacing Jordan Henderson. Steve Bruce has worries over Lee Cattermole (back), Lorik Cana (hand) and Marton Fulop (heel), but none of them have been ruled out of the match.

John Mensah is unlikely to have signed in time to make his Sunderland debut.

Squad: Fulop, Gordon, Carson, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, Nosworthy, Da Silva, McCartney, Cana, Cattermole, Richardson, Reid, Malbranque, Leadbitter, Henderson, Tainio, Edwards, Bent, Jones, Campbell, Healy.

Player to watch: Kenwyne Jones

The Trinidadian has failed to score so far this season, so he will be eager to get off the mark, especially with how Darren Bent has started the season.

Blackburn Team News:

Blackburn captain Ryan Nelsen will return after recovering from a knee problem and Vince Grella is in contention to start, but Allardyce has stated his desire to give Nikola Kalinic his debut in the Carling Cup match against Gillingham, meaning Jason Roberts and Benni McCarthy are likely to continue up front.

Blackburn are still awaiting international clearance for former Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado and will not feature.

Squad: Robinson, Jacobsen, Samba, Givet, Warnock, Diouf, Nzonzi, Andrews, Pedersen, McCarthy, Roberts, Brown, Grella, Khizanishvili, Hoilett, Olsson, Di Santo, Nelsen, Kalinic, van Heerden.

Player to watch: El-Hadji Diouf

How often does a former player come back to haunt their previous employers? Diouf`s move was far from a success and was shipped off to Blackburn in January, despite only making the move to the Stadium of Light last summer.

Match Facts & Stats

Last season the two clubs faced each other on five occasions after being drawn against Blackburn in both cup competitions, three of which were at the Stadium of Light. Both the league and the FA Cup game ended in scoreless draws and Sunderland won the Carling Cup game 2-1. In the fixtures at Ewood, Blackburn won both games 2-1.

Sunderland are looking for their first home win against Blackburn since a 1-0 win in September 2001.

Ref Watch:

Referee: Alan Wiley

Assistant referees (Linesmen): Dave Bryan and Shaun Proctor-Green

Fourth official: Martin Atkinson

Match Prediction:

With the improvements the Steve Bruce has made to the side over the summer, Sunderland will have enough to win this game. Blackburn will come looking to frustrate the Black Cats, but I believe we will have enough to break them down en route to a two goal victory.

Next Fixtures:

Sunderland will face Norwich City in the Carling Cup on Monday night before a tough trip to Stoke next weekend.


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