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Game preview - Sunderland (a)

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The story from both camps is perhaps one of over-expectation and under-achievement. Both Sunderland and visitors Fulham have had a torrid opening to the campaign and find themselves languishing in the lower rungs of the Premier League - Fulham 16th with Sunderland one place above.

Maybe, though, the similarities end there. As the crow flies, 390 miles separate Craven Cottage and the Stadium of Light while 219 miles separate the birth place of the respective managers of both sides. Steve Bruce is a man built wholly on solidity, though his teams' style of play contradicts this to a certain extent, while Martin Jol is the epitome of Dutch football's higher echelons of footballing class. He may not have total football down to a tee in England just yet but he has time on his hands.

There is always the argument that Martin Jol may well be the problem for Fulham right now, what with his fluctuating ideas on tactical decisions and the uncanny ability for his team to play exceedingly well and still stumble to what, on occasion, can be humiliating defeat. More than likely, though, it is a mere period of settling in which his new players and staff alike begin to acclimatise to life by the Thames.

Bruce, though, in the Sunderland hot seat, doesn't have such a strong defence to fall back on. He has been at the helm for two years and should, theoretically, know the club down to a minute degree. Results haven't been forthcoming though and they are an expectation, with significant outlays spent over the last 3 summers. Asamoah Gyan's untimely departure won't have helped matters on Wearside, however, and what Bruce probably needs is something quite similar to Jol in the opposite dugout - some temporal leeway.

Sunderland have picked up 5 points from 5 games over the October and November period, featuring one win and two draws. Most recently, they fell to the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, where a respectable fight was put up but to no ultimate avail.

Fulham's form has been a tad more difficult to predict. A 3-1 home defeat to Tottenham - one in which the home side could have plausibly won given their second half domination - came on the back of a particularly warming 4-1 win over Wisla Krakow in Europe and a somewhat surprisingly early away win at the DW Stadium.

In last season's parallel fixture, Mark Hughes' Fulham side managed a somewhat startlingly simple 3-0 win up North, Simon Davies taking most of the days plaudits. At home, Fulham were held to a 0-0 draw.

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet may be a doubt for the host, after breaking his nose while strikers Fraizer Campbell and Connor Wickham are certainties to miss out.

For Fulham, Simon Davies will not be able to replicate his success on this turf last season, with Jol expecting the Welshmen to need another week's rest at least. Grygrea will of course play no part while Steve Sidwell and Stephen Kelly will stay in London.

Predicted line-up: Schwarzer; Riise, Hangeland, Senderos, Hughes; Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; Zamora, Johnson

Score prediction: Sunderland 1 - 0 Fulham