Sunderland V Bolton at Stadium of Light : Match Preview
O'Neill ponders striking options
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neil will target goals as he plots the way ahead for the club. The Black Cats entertain relegation candidates Bolton all but mathematically safe themselves after launching an impressive fightback under their new manager. However, the impetus has rather drained away from their season since a demoralising FA Cup quarter-final replay defeat by Everton on March 27. Goals have been in depressingly short supply in recent weeks - the Black Cats have not found the back of the net in their last four games - and that will be a significant factor when O'Neill draws up his recruitment plans for the summer.
He said: "We don't have anybody in double figures at this moment scoring goals. At the end of the season, if you are going to have some sort of success, you are going to have to have that. "You are going to have to have at least two players in double figures and possibly three, and one of those scoring a quite substantial number over 10, for a start. "We have disguised the fact over the weeks by being able to share them around, but when they are not coming from other areas, then of course you start looking at centre-forwards and scoring goals." Loan striker Nicklas Bendtner has just seven goals to his name to date this season, with both Stephane Sessegnon and midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who will miss the last three games after undergoing groin surgery, one ahead of the Denmark international. Bendtner is unlikely to find a new permanent home at the Stadium of Light next season as he contemplates a future away from Arsenal, and with Asamoah Gyan destined to make a permanent switch from Wearside following his year on loan at Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, there is little doubt about O'Neill's main focus. The market for goalscorers will be as fierce as ever this summer, although O'Neill saw the type of player he would like in the shape of Athletic Bilbao frontman Fernando Llorente as he fired his club into the Europa League final last night. He said: "Have a look at Athletic Bilbao's game last night - the centre-forward there was prepared to come out and play. He's a brilliant centre-forward." O'Neill added with a smile: "Is he available?" O'Neill will be without Larsson and full-back Kieran Richardson, who has undergone a similar operation, while Craig Gardner is suspended.
Bolton boss Owen Coyle has urged his players to continue defying the critics who persist in writing off his team by again showing their "guts and desire". Tuesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa has further fuelled hope the club can stave off relegation to the npower Championship, a threat that has been hanging over them virtually all campaign. Coyle's side have taken 13 points from their last seven matches, in contrast to just 20 from the previous 27 games, to leave them a point adrift of safety and with a match in hand. Their fate is again in their own hands ahead of the trip to Sunderland where another chance beckons for Bolton to hit back at the doubters. "When QPR picked up a big result at the weekend against Tottenham, all of a sudden there was a four-point gap to us and people again wanted to write us off," said Coyle. "We've become accustomed to that, so what we will do is look to keep on showing people they're getting it wrong. "We've done that in the last two games, going a goal behind in each, only to take a point against Swansea and beat Aston Villa. "If my players didn't have belief and trust in each other then they would have felt sorry for themselves and crumbled. "But they picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and came roaring back in both games, culminating in us taking four points from the two matches. "Against Swansea and Villa we showed real guts and desire to push on and win the game, and that's what we need in the final four games."
Bolton's current run is just one small part of an unpredictable end to the Premier League season in which relegation rivals QPR and, especially, Wigan have conjured some remarkable results. Assessing the situation, Coyle added: "The teams around us have picked up some huge results a lot of people did not expect, which has not benefitted us. "What we've simply done is earn the results we felt were there to be gained." Coyle claimed another six players picked up knocks on Tuesday, including midfielders Chris Eagles, Ryo Miyaichi and Mark Davies. Darren Pratley has missed the last two matches through illness, while Bolton are still awaiting FIFA clearance to play winger Gregg Wylde following his move from Rangers.
Sunderland V Bolton - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.
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