Torrid is probably one of the better adjectives with which to describe Sunderland’s 2016/17 Premier League campaign, so they could hardly do without one of their best players missing a string of crucial fixtures.
With just a point on the board prior to West Brom’s visit last time, the sight of Jan Kirchhoff being stretchered off just 10 minutes into the second half of the eventual 1-1 draw was far from welcomed at the Stadium of Light.
Kirchhoff’s struggles with injuries are well documented, but when the 6ft 5” defensive midfielder is fully fit (and it’s debateable whether he really has been yet this term after missing the first three games), he’s among the most influential players at David Moyes’ disposal.
His stats across 15 games for the Black Cats last season after arriving from Schalke in January bear that out, when his impact on a floundering side contributed greatly to relegation being swerved for another year.
In that period, the German averaged 3.5 tackles per top-flight appearance, the same amount of clearances and just over two successful interceptions and dribbles.
Facing adversity so early in the new campaign Moyes could hardly do without Kirchhoff for tussles against four of the bottom eight in the next five league fixtures.
The dreaded phrase ‘six-pointer’ is already applicable to matches against fellow drop-zone occupants Stoke and West Ham, while clashes against Bournemouth and Hull hold nearly as much significance in the fight for survival.
It’s plausible that the former Bayern Munich midfielder will be back for the Tigers’ visit in mid-November but that’s on the optimistic side given most reports claim six-to-eight weeks before his hamstring is fully healed.
We make it even money that Sunderland follow recent tradition and still survive this season, while 8/11 says they perish.
The next month is bound to paint a clearer picture of the Wearsiders’ chances.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing