‘There are no easy games in the Premier League these days’ or something along similar lines is a phrase that will only continue to crop up across various press conferences throughout the coming season.
If there is an exception to this rule then it is facing Sunderland in August, especially given the available squad currently at the disposal of David Moyes.
The Black Cats haven’t won a Premier League game in the eighth month of the year since 2010, while Moyes is having to cope with numerous issues regarding his playing staff at present, with the backbone of last season’s squad all unavailable.
Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone are two of the best central defenders the club have had in recent times, but the former has been sold to Watford and the latter is refusing to sign a new contract. He is also sidelined with a back problem.
In midfield, captain Lee Cattermole is injured, as are Jan Kirchhoff and Seb Larsson. Meanwhile, Yann M’Vila is back with Rubin Kazan after quibbles over a transfer fee have prevented his loan deal from last term being made permanent.
This is far from ideal heading into the Wear-Tees derby with Middlesbrough, with Jack Rodwell potentially the only recognised and available central midfielder.
Papy Djilobodji, the £8m summer signing from Chelsea who failed to make an appearance for the Blues, is sure to be given a debut against Boro despite being unproven in the English top-flight. Paddy McNair may also be given a first start for the club in the back three.
Forgetting John O’Shea and Jermain Defoe and the current squad is heavily short of know-how.
Taking Sunderland’s August record into account, alongside the threadbare and inexperienced nature of their squad, it is a slight surprise that Boro have not been installed as favourites to win at the Stadium of Light.
Boro are 21/10 to collect the three points, with Sunderland hard to fancy at 6/4 to triumph, even though they have home advantage.
Only five teams created more chances inside the box than Aitor Karanka’s men across the opening gameweek of Premier League fixtures and the now-departed Kaboul was the only player to be involved in all of Sunderland’s seven clean sheets last term.
Therefore, the 23/10 that Boro’s solitary line leader Alvaro Negredo scores in the 90 minutes also looks a decent investment.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.