Sunderland were lucky to survive last season, finishing just three points above the drop zone. Only four sides conceded more than the Black Cats’ total of 53 last year, and Dick Advocaat has attempted to fix that with the signings of defenders Adam Matthews, from Celtic, and Younes Kaboul, from Spurs, whilst the once highly rated defensive midfielder Yann M’Vila has joined on loan. The big signing though is winger Jeremain Lens, who will be charged with creating goals for a strike force that was less than effective last year. Joint top scorer Connor Wickham has left for Crystal Palace, so Steven Fletcher will need to recapture his first season form where he bagged 11 in 28 games, and a goal-shy Danny Graham and an aging Jermain Defoe need to step up. When he isn’t suspended, Lee Cattermole can lead by example as the tough-tackling stopper in the centre of the park, and keeping him on the pitch will be among Sunderland’s priorities this season. Sunderland play Leicester, Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth early on, so will need to win these games if they are to show that they can avoid the drop again.
Key Player: Jeremain Lens
One to Watch: Adam Matthews