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Premier League preview: Sunderland v Fulham

SoccerNews in English Premier League 28 Apr 2011

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Goals will be at a premium for Sunderland when they tackle Fulham at home on Saturday.

The Black Cats go into the match without a recognised senior striker, after Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck picked up hamstring strains in the 4-2 win over Wigan last Saturday.

They join long-term casualty Fraizer Campbell on the injury list, leaving boss Steve Bruce with 19-year-old rookie Ryan Noble, who has yet to start a first-team game, as his only available out-and-out striker.

“It looks like we will be without Welbeck and Gyan for the rest of the season now, which is a massive blow,” Bruce told the Sunderland Chronicle.

“Danny has already gone back to Man United because they want to assess him.”

“He will not come back to us unless they can get it 100 per cent right, say in time for the last game of the season against West Ham, but that is unlikely given how close to the end of the season we are.”

“Gyan has had a scan and we are still waiting for that report.”

But on-loan Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha insists there is no need to panic despite the striker crisis.

Onuoha points to the performances of Stephane Sessegnon and Steed Malbranque, who were pressed into action as emergency forwards against the Latics, as a sign that Sunderland will cope.

“Being at home on Saturday, the emphasis is on us to win the game, whether we have any of the big-name strikers or not.”

“It’ll be the time for someone to go and step up because we’ve relied on the strikers too much to score goals this season.”

Fulham, meanwhile, can contemplate another season in the top flight after beating Bolton 3-0 at Craven Cottage on Wednesday.

On New Year’s Day Fulham were 18th in the Premier League table and looking bound for the Championship.

But since defeating West Bromwich Albion on January 4 they have not returned to the relegation zone and now hold ninth position.

“I’ve always said my teams are always stronger in the second half of the season,” manager Mark Hughes said.

“That’s because of the work we do [with the players] on a daily basis. I’ve said before that we are a top-10 team and now it’s up to us to stay there.”

A goal in each half from Clint Dempsey and a third from Brede Hangeland gave the home side the points in their first outing at the Cottage since a 3-0 win over Blackpool at the start of the month.

Dempsey is confident his team can continue on their winning ways against Sunderland.

“We’re in the top half and it’s always better to be looking up than looking down,” the US international told the Fulham website.

“Hopefully we can keep pushing on from here and finish in the top half, because I think we’re a top half team and if we’d have had a few more results we’d be even higher than we are.”

“So we just need to keep pushing, keep working hard and hopefully we can add some away wins to help us in that aim.”

“There are still four games left and you don’t want to be stressing come the last game, so we’re trying not to think about slipping down the table.”

“We’re trying to look up because we feel that we have the quality to be a team in the top half, and that’s the main goal now with four games left.”

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