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Premier League preview: Sunderland v Manchester United

Manchester United travel to Sunderland on Saturday in a potential pitfall ahead of their FA Cup clash with Chelsea less than 48 hours later.

Relegation-threatened Sunderland can expect an experimental United side to take to the pitch, with the Red Devils’ FA Cup semi-final replay with Chelsea scheduled for an early kickoff in London on Monday.

Yet, Sir Alex Ferguson will also be mindful of last season’s catastrophic capitulation as they handed the title to Manchester City, even with a 15-point gap back to their neighbours this season.

The likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie may be given the afternoon off following international double-headers, with United likely to call upon the likes of Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez to replace the deadly duo.

Such depth should see the Red Devils cruise to the title, another 15 points from their final nine matches would mathematically guarantee them the crown.

Meanwhile, Sunderland are in a real dogfight for survival having not won in seven games, and were dealt a huge blow when leading scorer Stephen Fletcher was carried off on a stretcher during Scotland’s 2-1 defeat to Wales.

Fletcher is the Black Cats’ most important player and has often single-handedly lifted the side to important wins this season. If there proves to be ligament damage to his ankle he will surely miss the clash.

Sunderland’s form will also be a huge worry for manager Martin O’Neill with games against Chelsea, Newcastle, Everton and Tottenham to come after the United game.

The Black Cats are four points clear of the drop zone but their tough fixture leaves them sitting precariously above in-form Southampton and rejuvenated Aston Villa.

Stephane Sessegnon and David Vaughan (groin) are likely to miss while captain Lee Cattermole continues his long-term absence with a knee injury.

Thu 28 March, 2013
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