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Arsenal travel north to the Stadium of Light this afternoon as they try to cast last weekend’s disappointing league result from their memory. Roy Keane’s Sunderland have taken seven points from their first six matches and just recently squeezed by League One side, Northampton Town, on penalties in the Third Round of the Carling Cup having already dispatched Nottingham Forest.
Aside from their disappointing result on the opening weekend home to Liverpool where they defended gallantly but were finally broken down by Fernando Torres inside the last ten minutes and their mauling at the hands of Manchester City, the Black Cats have looked decent against their bottom-half opponents. For a team who finished 15th in the league last year yet only three points clear of relegation, it is imperative that they beat the teams around them in the table. A draw at Wigan wouldn’t usually be considered a bad result for Sunderland but they had taken the lead into the final quarter of an hour before an on-fire Zaki struck again for his fourth goal in three matches.
In team news, Kenwyne Jones is out for at least two weeks with a knee injury while Bardsley and Ledbitter are still not ready to return. Sunderland are boosted, however, by their recent signings, Djibril Cisse from Marseille and El Hadji Diouf from Bolton. Arsenal’s squad looks much the same as it did in midweek besides the inclusion of the now-fit Alex Song. Mikael Silvestre and Johann Djourou are also in the side named by Arsene Wenger on Thursday. Arsene said in a press conference on Thursday that Eduardo is on schedule to be back “before Christmas” and that Diaby should be ready in two weeks. However, he continues his refusal to put Tomas Rosicky’s return in any kind of timeframe.
Sunderland showed the heart that Roy Keane has instilled in them when they came back to tie the game at the Emirates last season at 2 after having been completely outplayed for much of the first half. Arsenal eventually won the match 3-2 but not before being given a right scare by the former United captain. Arsenal will look to complete their recovery from last week’s result with their 4-nil victory over Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday having been the “first part.”
Here are the squads:
Sunderland: Gordon, Fulop, Chimbonda, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney, Diouf, Whitehead, Miller, Reid, Richardson, Malbranque, Henderson, Cisse, Murphy, Healy, Stokes, Chopra.
Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Toure, Gallas, Sagna, Nasri, Fabregas, Denilson, Walcott, Adebayor, Van Persie, Fabianski, Song, Djourou, Vela, Bendtner, Ramsey, Eboue, Silvestre.
*Kickoff is at 3pm BST with the match being broadcast on Setanta Sports in the US.