Kick Off: 1.30pm, Sunday 21st August
TV: Sky Sports 1
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Sunderland team news:
Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson remain long-term absentees, though Billy Jones and Jan Kirchhoff could make a return to the side. Younes Kaboul, who is expected to sign for Watford in the coming days, is unlikely to feature.
Middlesbrough team news:
Big money signing Marten De Roon is out along with fellow midfielder and former Sunderland man Grant Leadbitter, while Boro are also short in defence with centre-halves Daniel Ayala and Bernardo Espinosa also out for the away side.
The first top flight Wear-Tees derby in seven years comes to the Stadium of Light on Sunday with the two clubs heading into the game in highly contrasting moods.
Visitors Middlesbrough couldn’t be happier, with boss Aitor Karanka having followed up a yearned for return to the top flight with a productive summer recruitment drive.
Eight players have arrived at the Riverside since promotion from the Championship was clinched, with Karanka showing that he wasn’t afraid to disrupt a winning squad with some big-name additions.
Spain’s Victor Valdes is now the man between the sticks, while Gaston Ramirez’s successful loan spell has been made permanent, which can only be good news for Boro’s marquee signing, Alvaro Negredo. The Valencia forward arrives on loan looking to have a second pop at the Premier League following his mixed spell at Manchester City, and it didn’t take long for he and Ramirez to combine last week when opening the scoring in their first match back against Stoke.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s second half equaliser did little to dampen the spirits on Teesside, who despite being third favourites to go down (9/4) are envisaging of a confident and comfortable return to the Premier League.
Meanwhile, few teams can claim to have experienced a more turbulent summer than Boro’s old foes and hosts on Sunday. Sunderland are certainly no strangers to seeing managers come and go, but on this occasion for once it was not of their own volition.
But while Sunderland’s swift appointment of David Moyes following Sam Allardyce’s England call-up was an impressive response, the club have been less than decisive in the transfer market since.
Papy Djilobodji, Paddy McNair and Donald Love may have arrived to strengthen the defence, but only the loan signing of Adnan Januzaj has added some much-needed creativity to Sunderland’s forward ranks. Instead Moyes has spent his first months in the job shooing away offers for his star central defensive pairing Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul, though with two weeks of the transfer window left and predators still sniffing, his efforts look increasingly doomed to failure.
Throw in McNair’s crushing own goal in the dying minutes at Man City last week, denying Sunderland a much-deserved point, and Wearsiders could be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed heading into Sunday’s derby.
Worries focus particularly on Moyes’ patchwork midfield. A mix of young, old and unused may have admirably plugged away at City last week, but few will deem John O’Shea a long-term candidate for a holding role ahead of injured duo Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff or the yet-to-be-signed Yann M’Vila.
But as with Middlesbrough fans and Negredo, the Black Cats can take plenty encouragement from the start offered by their own star striker. Jermain Defoe resumed training earlier than all of his teammates this pre-season in the hope of regaining the sharpness that made him and his goals the key factor in Sunderland’s salvation last time around. He may be 33 but at the Etihad last week he certainly showed £50m John Stones that the youngster still has much work to do to justify his lofty fee and reputation.
It leaves the derby intriguingly poised with depleted defences allowing both frontmen to take the initiative. With Defoe at 2/1 to score at any time and his counterpart Negredo 9/4 to do the same, a scorecast with either striker and 1-1 (the score the last time these two faced each other in the top flight) bumps up the odds, Defoe at 25/1 and Negredo at 33/1.