Sunderland holds a narrow advantage going into the second leg of the playoff semifinals against Portsmouth. Both the sides have been evenly matched when they have faced off against each other this season previously, and we can once again expect a closely fought encounter.
However, on the balance of play from the first leg, Sunderland deserved to take the lead as they dominated the proceedings for the most parts and Jack Ross was willing to commit a lot of his players into the opposition’s box.
What to expect from Sunderland?
Ross is likely to lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Charlie Wyke up top. Sunderland are expected to take an uncomplicated approach from the back as they are willing to hoof the ball from defence instead of playing out from the back. That is the reason we expect Charlie Wyke to start up front ahead of Will Grigg as he is a better targetman.
Sunderland were extremely efficient in winning the second balls in midfield in the first leg. Even when they didn’t get the ball, they were able to counter press the Portsmouth players and win back possession. This tactic worked for most parts of the game, and we don’t expect Jack Ross to change too much from that.
Lewis Morgan will often look to drift inside instead of playing as a traditional winger. The width from the left is likely to be provided by full back Bryan Oviedo. On the right flank, we can see Lynden Gooch play as a more traditional winger providing width. Portsmouth needs to make sure that they stop the crosses coming in from the source as the Black Cats were pushing quite a few players into the box and some late runs by the likes of Lee Cattermole could be dangerous.
What does Portsmouth need to do?
The Pompey were often pinned in their own half, but they should back themselves to dominate the game more in front of their home crowd. Kenny Jackett would hope that he can get the likes of Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe more into the game as they were often left to defend in the first leg. Bryan Oviedo and Luke O’Nien were often seen high up the pitch, and that is something which Portsmouth can look to exploit.
The worrying factor for Jackett from the first leg was that they hardly troubled Sunderland when they went down to 10 men. There just seemed to be no method from them to break Sunderland down as they were unable to link up play well in dangerous areas. They were often predictable in attacking from the wide areas, and Sunderland were able to cope with that. The Pompey players need to show more bravery when they get on the ball and attack the half spaces instead of playing the predictable balls in the wide regions.
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