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The early kick-off in the Premier League this weekend is a battle between two sides with very different ambitions for the season as Manchester United make the journey to Sunderland.
The Black Cats are on a poor run of six games without a win in the league, which has seen them drop to just four points clear of the bottom three, whereas United can make the gap between themselves and Manchester City 18 points with a victory here.
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Sunderland looked as though they had got themselves out of trouble in the early stages of 2013, but this winless run has meant they are now in the scrap to stay in the top flight.
In the 1-1 draw against Norwich City last time out, they lacked a lot of quality in the final third and it was an extremely frustrating performance, especially as they were playing against ten men for an hour of the game.
That performance left a lot of fans at the Stadium of Light worried about what the next few weeks have in store, especially as Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic and Southampton are all playing some decent football and picking up points at the moment.
Martin O’Neill needs a big performance from his men here and he must get his tactics spot-on as United are firing on all cylinders. A home win can be backed at 5/1.
Steven Fletcher is injured for this clash, so Danny Graham is likely to be leading the line and has to put in a big performance here.
Fletcher’s injury is the chance for the former Swansea man to show just why O’Neill paid £5million for him in January and he is at 10/1 to score first.
As for Manchester United, it will be interesting to see what team Sir Alex Ferguson goes with in this encounter as his men have an FA Cup quarter-final replay with Chelsea on Monday afternoon, so he must use his squad to its full in the next few days.
What Ferguson does have is four strikers – Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez – at his disposal and all are in decent form, so the Scotsman is certainly has plenty of attacking options.
Welbeck was the only man who didn’t score when on international duty, but his performance for England on Tuesday night was an extremely good one. He is at 13/8 to score anytime in this one.
In the league, United have been the best team by a mile this season and their position reflects that.
They come into this one in excellent spirits and if they grab an early goal, this could prove to be another comfortable victory for the Red Devils.
The visitors haven’t lost in the league since November and could still reach 100 points for the season if they win their remaining nine matches, so that is another incentive to finish strongly.
We should be in for a cracking fixture here to set the tone for the Premier League weekend. Kick-off is at 12.45pm.