It’s the first league meeting between Sunderland and Burton as Chris Coleman takes charge of the Black Cats for the second time this afternoon.
It make appear on face value that this is a trip mainly for the hardcore supporters and those wishing to chalk off a new stadium on their check-list, perhaps, but there are grounds to believe that this one should be an entertaining affair.
Nigel Clough’s side have won just one of their last 10 Championship matches, while Sunderland have been victorious only once all season, but the goals have been flowing at the wrong end for both teams - the two have jointly conceded the most in the league.
The home side are hardly prolific, however, and Sunderland have scored nearly twice as many as Burton so far this term. Only four Championship sides have hit more on the road than the Black Cats, whilst the Brewers are the league’s most generous hosts on their own turf.
Not content with setting the English record for consecutive home fixtures without a victory, the struggling Wearsiders have now registered their worst points tally from the opening 18 matches of a league season since the 15-point relegation campaign of 2005-6.
There may still be some optimism in the air amongst the 1,500 away fans this afternoon, buoyed by Coleman’s appointment, but an unthinkable defeat to a relegation rival of Burton Albion’s stature would seriously dent Mackem pride.
Aside from the Clough link, there’s an air of unfamiliarity between the two clubs. Just four players have turned out for both sides, but the Brewers can lay claim to having a hand in the development of Jordan Pickford. The England and former Sunderland goalkeeper spent part of 2013 on loan at the Pirelli Stadium.
Coleman has a few senior players ruled out for varying lengthy periods. Duncan Watmore is cruelly robbed of his season before it had really begun and won’t be seen again this term. Midfielder Jonny Williams is out for a while with a shoulder injury, though Lee Cattermole and Paddy McNair ought to be available.
Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong are amongst the Sunderland players missing for the next few weeks. The pair appeared on social media yesterday - perhaps to quieten chatter about their commitment to the Black Cats cause as the opening of the January transfer window draws ever near.
The home side are without right-back John Brayford, who lined up against us for Derby County in a pre-season friendly back in 2012, and Nigel Clough is sweating on the fitness of winger Lloyd Dyer and striker Joe Mason.
Predicted Scoreline: Personally, I just can’t see where the next Sunderland win is going to come from - even against Burton - never mind that elusive clean sheet. So chances are we’ll smash the Brewers 1-0.