Hull face season-defining clash against Sunderland Nov14

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Hull face season-defining clash against Sunderland

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Hull City defied the odds in their first two matches of the season to claim maximum points to ride high at the top of the Premier League. The Tigers had endured a summer of turmoil due to a lack of transfers, which culminated in the departure of manager Steve Bruce just three weeks before the start of the new campaign.

Assistant boss Mike Phelan took over management of the club, while injuries to key players such as Michael Dawson and Moses Odubajo left the squad wafer-thin. No pundit gave the Phelan’s men hope of claiming even a point on their return to the top flight against reigning champions Leicester City at the KCOM Stadium.

However, they stunned the Foxes by clinching a 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Adama Diomande and Robert Snodgrass, while they backed up their efforts with an impressive away performance against Swansea City, defeating them 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium with two late strikes from Shaun Maloney and Abel Hernandez.

A last-minute free-kick from Snodgrass maintained a strong start to the campaign, but the Tigers then lost their next six games on the spin to send them tumbling down the Premier League. Their win over Southampton could re-ignite their bid for survival with struggling Sunderland next in line to face Phelan’s men with the latest football odds backing them at 11/4 to beat the Black Cats.

The match could define the seasons of both clubs, with David Moyes’ side fresh of their first victory of the term over Bournemouth easing the pressure on the Scot. The teams will be determined to build off their respective wins, which could be extremely crucial come the end of the campaign.

Hull’s key to success this term has been the form of Robert Snodgrass. They sorely missed the Scotland international in their last campaign in the Premier League when he was ruled out for over a year with a serious knee injury. His four goals have earned the Tigers five points alone due to displaying the propensity to be clinical in and around the final third. Hull would be rock-bottom without his presence and his form is crucial to their survival.

Defensively, Phelan’s men have been suspect which is understandable given their injury problems, but Hull boss will know that his side have to tighten up if they are to remain in the Premier League. Heavy defeats to Bournemouth, Liverpool and Arsenal highlighted their issues, but should Curtis Davies and Dawson find the peak of their form then there is enough talent and experience there to steady the ship. However, Andrew Robertson’s calf injury is a tough blow to stomach, especially without their starting right-back Odubajo for the season.

To claim the three points at the Stadium of Light the Tigers will have to stop Jermain Defoe, who even at the age of 34 is still proving to be a predator in the top flight, with six goals already to his name this season. The Black Cats rely heavily on the former England international as he has scored 66% of their strikes this term. Preventing him from firing will go a long way into securing a vital win and putting a huge dent into Sunderland’s survival hopes.