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FA Cup preview: Bolton Wanderers v. Sunderland

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Two teams coming off of tough losses will look for a return to winning ways this Saturday at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton Wanderers welcome Sunderland to BL6 for an FA Cup third round clash.

Stu Forster

Sunderland have very much been Bolton's bogey team of late. The Trotters have only won one of their last nine meetings with Sunderland, a Premier League clash in November, 2008. The other results? Six losses and two draws. That doesn't bode well.

The Trotters are coming off a heartbreaking away loss to Leeds United on New Years Day where they were made to rue the one real mistake that they made on the day. Tyrone Mears made an awful decision to slide in from behind in the box, leading to a stonewall penalty that Luciano Becchio calmly put away, leading to a 1-0 Leeds win at Elland Road. Sunderland, on the other hand, are coming off of a 3-0 loss away to Liverpool.

As for injuries, Bolton Wanderers are again without the the usual suspects of Matt Mills, David Wheater, Mark Davies, Josh Vela, and Stuart Holden. However, in a change of pace, the news is slightly different for those last two as both Vela and Holden are in full training and are both closing in on a return from their knee injuries. Had this game come two or three weeks later, both could have reasonably seen minutes on the pitch.

Sunderland will miss John O'Shea, Wes Brown, and Lee Cattermole. Those three are out with a hamstring and two knee injuries, respectively. 19-year-old Connor Wickham has a very real chance at starting on Saturday in place of Stephane Sessegnon.

In terms of form, Sunderland are coming off two straight losses: Tottenham and the aforementioned Liverpool game. They find themselves in 14th in the Premier League table, four points and four places clear of the drop zone. The issue for Sunderland this season hasn't been the defense as they are very much middle-of-the-pack with 29 goals conceded in 21 games. Their problem is scoring goals, having only put 21 balls into the bac of the net, making it the third lowest in the whole of the Premier League. In fact, Wigan and Reading, both in the relegation spots, have scored more goals.

The club's leading scorer is Steven Fletcher with eight goals on the year, five of which came in the first five games of the season. His house-on-fire form has significantly cooled down as the season has progressed and Fletcher has only managed two goals in his last 13 games.

Bolton expect to make a number of changes to the side that beat Birmingham City and lost to Leeds United for the clash. Dougie feels no pressure ahead of the match and will use it to give fringe and young talent a chance to run out. Joe Riley, Sam Ricketts, Marvin Sordell, Martin Petrov, and David Ngog all should have a chance to show their stuff on the field.

One of the names that was being thrown around for Bolton as a chance to play was Tom Eaves but the will not feature for the men in white. Eaves is unfortunately cup-tied as he played for Bristol Rovers in their FA Cup first round loss to Sheffield United in early November.