IT JUST goes to show how tough this league is that you have a team like Sunderland who have struggled but still no-one gets an easy game against them, home or away.
I saw them at West Ham last weekend and for a large part of the time they were down to 10 men they held their own - it was only really the introduction of Marlon Harewood in the second half that turned the game for West Ham.
It was a spirited performance from Sunderland and they still managed to create a couple of chances as well.
They showed enough character and determination to underline that they are not giving up yet, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for sure.
For most of the season they have played in a 4-4-2 system, there have been periods where theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve played 4-5-1 and I saw them earlier in the season at home against Liverpool where they started that way but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gone back to a 4-4-2 of late and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d expect.
The big plus for them is the return of the big lad Kevin Kyle who was a very important player for them in the last couple of seasons. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been out injured for a while and they will be delighted to have him back Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he was one of their better players at West Ham. What did surprise me was that he managed to stay on the pace, not least because they had to sacrifice a front player following the sending off. Le Tallec went off and Kyle did the lone job by himself and handled it well. At his best he is one of the best target men in the league.
Obviously I know Gary Breen well from Ireland and he always did very well for us. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s had a couple of changes of club including a period at West Ham that didn't really work out but he typifies the way they play, a whole-hearted defender, very good in the air and one who looks to lead from the back.
The strongest area is through midfield with the likes of Liam Lawrence, Dean Whitehead, Christian Bassila in the holsing role and Julio Arca, another player who has been out for long periods and one they really missed. He is one of the quality players of the side.
Most people will remember the game at the Lane earlier in the season and with that in mind, we will expect nothing less than another very tough encounter on Sunday.
Chris Hughton's regular assessment of our forthcoming opponents - next up, Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday...