Sunderland-Norwich City Preview
LONDON (SE) - Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill is under pressure ahead of his team's visit to Carrow Road to play Norwich on Sunday afternoon.
It has been a year since Sunderland sacked Steve Bruce after a run of just four wins in 25 games, yet O'Neill's record has been even worse, with four wins in the last 27.
Ahead of Sunday's game, the Irishman urged the Black Cats (2-7-4) to look for cheap goals to move clear of the relegation scrap.
"Three times against West Brom, their goalkeeper parried shots, and we should have had someone following in there and taking that gamble," said O'Neill. "Then it's an easy goal, it's a tap-in, rather than having a defender booting it clear for a corner kick. That is something we must improve on - getting cheap goals, those tap-ins from a couple of yards out.
"We're in a position in the league where it's so tight. We're two or three points away from mid-table, and two or three points away from relegation. It's going to be like that for a number of weeks. There's a lot of sides "similar in quality, and you just have to eke out that bit of luck to get a result."
Norwich captain Grant Holt stormed down the tunnel after being substituted in the 1-1 draw with Southampton in midweek, but his manager was not disappointed with the reaction.
"It's not about the captain - it's about a group of players that I've got that are totally committed," said Hughton. "I certainly don't want to see players that are happy not to play and are happy to be brought off.
"My responsibility is to look after the squad and try and get the best out of them. If that means players showing a little bit of passion and desire, then I can certainly settle for that."
Sunderland have doubts over Lee Cattermole (knee) and John O'Shea (shin), but Wes Brown remains out with a knee ligament injury. Norwich are likely to be without Michael Turner (shoulder) and on-loan striker Harry Kane (foot), and goalkeeper John Ruddy is definitely out.
Sunderland have won just twice in 20 league visits to Carrow Road in their history. Norwich have 12 wins and six draws in those games and have outscored the Black Cats 36-18.
Norwich (3-7-4) are unbeaten in seven after losing their first four matches and have conceded just three goals during their current surge. The Canaries also have won their last three home matches 1-0. Both meetings between these teams were won by the home team last season, with Norwich edging a 2-1 win in the corresponding fixture thanks to goals by Leon Barnett and Steve Morison. Kieran Richardson scored for the Black Cats four minutes from time, but they could not find another.
The home side has come away victorious in the last seven league meetings between these sides, and the last draw came in September 1998. The last win by the away side was Norwich winning 1-0 at Sunderland in August 1997, halting a run of nine straight games where the home side didn't lose.