Preview: Manchester City v Sunderland

Mark Hughes will be desperate for a win over Sunderland  as he attempts to stave off the vultures that are beginning to circle over the manager’s dugout at Eastlands. The defeat at Tottenham has given the run of 8 draws in 10 games a distinct look of the glass being half empty.

Despite the criticism of Sylvinho, the defence is likely to be unchanged, as the Brazilian did ok against Bolton and no-one in the Sunderland side has the pace of Aaron Lennon.

Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent are a physically strong and dangersous partnership up front for Sunderland. The lack of height amongst our back four where no-one was over 6 feet tall on Wednesday could be the biggest concern.

Playing Vincent Kompany at the back would alleviate this problem, but the Belgian may start in midfield with Nigel de Jong suspended. The make-up of the midfield is where the most intriguing selection choices lie.

A central pairing of Barry and Kompany is the most solid, but lacks mobility. Ireland has done ok in the last couple of games, particularly when coming into the middle, and could be a contender to play alongside Barry.

On the flanks, a recall for Bellamy seems inevitable even if it means upsetting Robinho. If Wright-Phillips is still out, there are a range of options. Ireland could continue or Weiss could be given a rare chance. Alternatively, Bellamy could be switched to the right with either Petrov or Robinho on the left.

An attacking midfield is likely, given Hughes is desperate for the win and a strong start to the match would generate a positive atmosphere inside the ground.

Despite his lack of form, it would still be a surprise to see Adebayor dropped. This is in part down to the lack of an impression being made by Roque Santa Cruz. Giving Bellamy’s pace a run through the middle could be worth a go. The Welshman does a decent job on the flank, but was more dangerous at the start of the season playing through the middle.

For Sunderland the return of Cattermole could be vital, particularly with the competitive Cana suspended. Fortunately for City, they aren’t in great form at the moment, and were well beaten by Villa on Tuesday.

However, they remain a potentially dangerous side under Steve Bruce, and the geordie would no doubt enjoy a positive result against Hughes with whom he now has a famously frosty relationship.

Todays revelation that Garry Cook has spoken to Guus Hiddink’s agent will provide an additional edge to the game. At City we may not have won many trophies recently, but we know a thing or two about managerial changes and the atmosphere could get a bit tasty if City fall behind at any point.

Many level-headed fans will call for patience, but 11 points from a possible 30 has sapped the faith in Hughes for a lot of people and, from the sounds of it, some of the players to. Being “at each others throats” after the Spurs defeat could provoke a positive reaction, but hardly sounds like a long term solution to the teams problems.

With three winnable fixtures against Sunderland, Stoke and Wolves, Mark Hughes probably needs 7 points to keep those vultures at bay. Anything less and the speculation that he will be gone sooner rather than later is likely to intensify.

All in all it promises to be a thrilling ride, at a time where each result could determine the manager’s future.

Blue Days line-up: Given, Richards, Sylvinho, Toure, Onuoha, Barry, Ireland, Robinho, Bellamy, Tevez, Adebayor.

Prediction: 3-1 to City.

Player ratings: Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
Time running out for Mark Hughes?

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