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Premier League Preview: Sunderland - Fulham

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Premier League Preview: Sunderland - Fulham
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Premier League Preview: Sunderland - Fulham

Paolo Di Canio begins his first full season in charge of Sunderland when it welcomes Fulham to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

The Italian ensured his side narrowly avoided relegation courtesy of a 17th place finish last season, after he replaced Martin O'Neill at the end of March.

Di Canio believes his side needed a "revolution" during the summer and went about reshaping his squad with no less than 11 new signings ahead of the new campaign, including U.S. star Jozy Altidore, who is fresh off scoring a hat trick against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Di Canio has been impressed with the application of his additions and is eagerly anticipating the start of the season when his side welcomes Martin Jol's men.

"The fans are all excited, it is the first season for a few years they feel excited to see the new team because there are many changes," Di Canio told the club's official website. "This year we brought in 11 players. It won't be like that all the time, but it was needed, because we needed a revolution.

"I can't wait I am curious to see my team. I'm very excited, because it's the first game where you play for points."

Sunderland heads into the game without suspended duo Craig Gardner and David Vaughan, while injured trio Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley and Steven Fletcher will all miss the game and Lee Cattermole remains a major doubt.

The Black Cats have 21 wins to Fulham's 16 in their league head-to-head record, but were held to a 2-2 draw at home by the Craven Cottage outfit on March 2.

Fulham captain Brede Hangeland is focusing on achieving safety as early as possible in the Premier League, despite investment into the club from American billionaire Shahid Khan over preseason. The Norwegian defender believes the London club has overachieved in the top-flight considering the vast sums of money spent by rival sides.

“My concern every year is to get 40 points as early as possible,” Hangeland told The Fulham Chronicle. “It might be a lack of ambition to say it, but I’m happy just to stay in the league, because so many teams are investing constantly.

“We’re punching above our weight, and having been here so long I know our strength relative to other clubs, and we need to stay modest."

Cottagers boss Jol has a near-full squad to choose from ahead of the season opener, although midfielder Alexander Kacaniklic is likely to miss out after picking up a hamstring injury a 1-0 preseason defeat to Werder Bremen in July.

The Dutchman's biggest task this season could be to improve his side’s away form, having seen the club win just four times on their travels last season. Jol could hand a competitive debut to Moroccan Adel Taarabt, who has arrived on a season-long loan deal from QPR, and Darren Bent, who likewise will be on loan for the season from Aston Villa.

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