Manchester City-Sunderland Preview

The Associated Press

Manchester City have been a different team when playing away from the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League this season.

With a visit to relegation-threatened Sunderland Sunday, they've seemingly hit a point in the fixtures that could help them better their away record.

The Stadium of Light, however, has been a rather dark venue for the Blues in recent years.

City have lost their last three away matches with the Black Cats, all 1-0. Last year's was particularly painful with former City midfielder Adam Johnson scoring the winner in the 53rd minute.

"The record is there to be broken," City forward Sergio Aguero told the team's official website. "Two years ago, we hadn't won the league in 44 years and we won it, now we need to break this record which is only three games old. But that's not the most important thing - the important thing is the three points."

They last came away from Sunderland with three points in 2008 and are 0-1-3 since.

City (6-1-3) lead the Premier League in goals (28), goal differential (17), shots on goal (68) and passes (4,535), but they can't seem to translate the attacking dominance into favourable road results. They're 1-1-3 with losses at Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Chelsea.

Aguero helped the Blues through to the Champions League knockout phase Tuesday with a pair of goals to accompany Alvaro Negredo's hat trick in their 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow.

They've now scored 12 goals in their last two games after Saturday's 7-0 thrashing of Norwich City which featured two own goals and five different goal scorers, including Aguero and Negredo.

Blues playmaker David Silva joined them on the score sheet and made it through 66 minutes Tuesday, but he's been announced out for up to four weeks with a calf injury.

City's defence again showed susceptibility against CSKA without Vincent Kompany, who remains out with a calf injury. He hasn't played since Oct. 5 and won't be available for the trip to Wearside.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart continues to be left out of manager Manuel Pellegrini's plans in favour of Costel Pantilimon. Hart last played in the Blues' 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Oct. 27.

"I'm thinking about what is the best for the team at this moment, and for this moment, I repeat, we have all the trust in Pantilimon," Pellegrini said.

The weekend begins with City in fifth place, six points back of Arsenal. With the Gunners at Manchester United, a City win coupled with some help from their neighbours could close the gap.

Sunderland (1-1-8) have tied for the worst goal differential in the top fight (-15) and are second to the bottom of the table. Their four points through 10 top-flight matches is one fewer than they had in the 2005-06 season that saw them relegated on a then-Premier League record 15 points.

But after Wednesday's 2-1 win over Southampton in the Capital One Cup, the Wearsiders have won two of four matches under the management of Gus Poyet.

"Overall, it was important to win the game and start playing the way they want," Poyet said.

Saturday's 1-0 loss at Hull City was the latest Premier League blemish for the Black Cats. After an own goal in the 25th minute, Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena were sent off in first-half stoppage time, and the Black Cats played the final 45 minutes with nine men.

It was striker Jozy Altidore's 37th career Premier League match, in which he has produced just one goal. He's without a goal this season in seven starts.

All the recent home success against City aside, Poyet is looking at Sunday's fixture as one of the more difficult ones his team will face this season.

"Sometimes you prefer to play them when they are in a bad run or when they have a few problems," he said. "But they've been on fire for the last two or three games and it's going to be very, very difficult."

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