Bring on the Black Cats. Sunderland preview

Last updated : 20 February 2004 By Michael Morris
Cardiff welcome Sunderland to Ninian Park for a match that is huge for both clubs. Sunderland sit just 5 points ahead of City in 7th place. The Black Cats are level on points with West Ham who are in the last play off place. A win for City would keep up a play off hope. Defeat would see a gap appearing that would start to get too big to close as far as play offs are concerned but more alarming would probably see City drop into the bottom half of the table and even though releagtion is most unlikely there would be some worrying glances over shoulders n case Forest or Derby were to make a surge.

It's the first time the teams have met at Ninian Park since May 3rd 1980, that game ended 1 - 1. The game this season at the Stadium of Light ended 0 - 0.

There are reports that Sunderland have just about sold their allocation of 1900 tickets, that together with a large home following should see a crowd of 17,000+ and a fantastic atmospehere.

Lennie could make changes to his team. Firstly he must decide on the condition of his international players. Not so much of a problem with Earnshaw, Gabbidon, Parry and Weston who were all based in Cardiff for Wales, or Alexander who was also in Cardiff with Scotland. Kavanagh and Lee were also back from Dublin soon enough.

The two long distance travellers were Richard Langley who arrived back last night from Kingston, Jamaica and Tony Vidmar who was due back today from Caracas Venezuela.

With John Robinson fit again and Gary Croft back from suspension Lennie can pick from a full squad.

City possible

Margetson, Weston, Vidmar, Gabbidon, Barker, Langley, Boland, Kavanagh, Parry, Earnshaw, Thorne. Subs from Alexander, Prior, Croft, Robinson, Lee and Campbell.

The likely scenario is that City will field the same XI as last week with Croft returning to the bench along with Robinson. Robbo will be kept out of the team by Paul Parry. 6 weeks ago he was playing for Hereford in the Conference but since moving to Cardiff has played 5 games in Div 1, he was man of the match for City in at least two of those, he then played nearly an hour for Wales in midweek and was involved in one of Earnie's goals and superbly set up Gareth Taylor for Wales' 4th. He must now prove to Lennie that he can get straight back to his Cardiff City role.

"Paul has gone from playing against Accrington Stanley to playing for Wales at the Millennium Stadium," said Lawrence

"Now he has got to come back down to earth and the early signs are that his feet are on the ground. It's important that he doesn't get carried away by Wednesday's experience because there are players here breathing down his neck.

"I was delighted for Paul when he came on against Scotland. But now he faces his first test as a Cardiff player. He has to repeat what he did for Wales for Cardiff on Saturday. Paul will be playing against Sunderland - unless I see signs in training that he shouldn't."

City have to get over the psychological barrier of not having beaten any of the teams above them in the table and there's no better time to start than at Ninian Park tomorrow.

Sunderland are hoping to have Kevin Kyle fit, the Scotsman missed his countries drubbing at the Millennium Stadium in midweek and also Darren Byfield, their new signing from Rotherham. Byfield is in the squad and expected to play but is will probably miss out if Kyle is fit to partner Stewart. Other names in the Sunderland squad inc Wales' John Oster and former Liverpool and Eire player Jason McAteer. Upfront they have £3.25m Marcus Stewart and in goal former Derby keeper Mart Poom. Sunderland are managed by former Eire boss Mick McCarthy.

Sunderland are still in the FA Cup and face a replay at St Andrews against Birmingham next Wednesday.

Kick off at Ninian park is at 3:00pm.