How Sunderland can frustrate Tottenham... again
As highlighted previously, Sunderland use a deep-lying, Testudo-style defensive strategy when playing possessionally dominant sides away from home.
Spurs – unbeaten at White Hart Lane since mid-November – are specialists at holding onto the ball and attacking with gusto. The dominant pattern of this match is flatly predictable, and it would be no surprise if Nacer Chadli's mazy runs and Harry Kane's ruthless finishing prove too much for Sunderland.
Taken from recent matches, these Stats Zone screens highlight Spurs' propensity for possession football (66% here), versus Sunderland's willingness to concede ground against better sides (35%).
However, Gus Poyet will take heart from Spurs' shaky defensive display against Chelsea, in which countless chances were conceded through wide positions as Kyle Walker and Danny Rose – boldly marauding down the wings to support in attack – left gaping holes for Eden Hazard to exploit on the counter.
Hazard frequently received passes from Cesc Fabregas that caught Rose high up the pitch.
Sunderland's chief source of optimism will be exploiting this to the same effect, primarily through the pace of Adam Johnson (4 goals, 1.6 dribbles per match) and the intelligent, high-tempo passing of Sebastian Larsson (3 assists, 1.9 key passes per match).
It was this precise tactic that served them well in the reverse fixture in September, when Sunderland survived to claim a 2-2 draw despite Spurs' 62% possession and onslaught of Vito Mannone's goal (16 shots).
Larsson's sweeping passes out wide were key to Sunderland's success, while Johnson's trickery was dangerous in the final third.
Given that Sunderland are without a win in five, and Spurs' upswing is only gaining in momentum at White Hart Lane, Poyet & Co.'s chances appear slim.
They may not possess talents like Hazard and Fabregas in their ranks, but if they show courage on the counter, the pace of Johnson could cause Mauricio Pochettino's mob some serious problems.