Sunderland had their destiny for the direct promotion spot in their own hands, but now they must hope for Barnsley to slip up if they want to get to the Championship without going through the vigours of the playoffs. For that to happen, the Wearside outfit needs to win its remaining games first. They will face a stern test at the Stadium of Light this weekend when they lock horns with third-placed Portsmouth.
The Pompey are on a terrific run of form and have won their last five games. Sunderland meanwhile have managed just two wins in their previous five, and that is the reason why their dreams of getting the second spot hang in the balance.
The Black Cats have been guilty of playing far too many draws this season as they have drawn with their opponents on 18 occasions this season which is the most in the division. Sunderland trail Portsmouth by two points and nothing less than three points would suffice in this encounter for them.
Reece James and Adam Matthews are expected to be out of this clash. Duncan Watmore is also going to miss out. Bryan Oviedo suffered a knock against the Posh, and he is a major doubt for this clash
Ross has been switching between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 in the past few games. They have looked defensively vulnerable with 4-4-2, and given the quality and form of Portsmouth, Ross might need that extra body in midfield.
Jon McLaughlin is set to start in goal once again. Tom Flanagan could return to the lineup ahead of Alim Ozturk who played the last two games in quick succession. Jimmy Dunne should keep his place at the back. Denver Hume is expected to start down the left side of the defence in the absence of Oviedo. Midfielder turned fullback Luke O’Nien is likely to operate as the right back.
Lee Cattermole should start in the middle of the park alongside Max Power. Grant Leadbitter is a more defensive option, and with Sunderland needing a win, he is likely to miss out in central areas. George Honeyman should be in the no. 10 position just behind the striker.
Experienced winger Aiden McGeady would need to step up in games of these nature, and a lot will be expected from him. He should operate down the left flank. Chris Maguire could get the nod ahead of Lewis Morgan to start on the right.
Charlie Wyke’s physical presence provides a different dimension to this team, and he should start over Will Grigg.