Nottingham forest go into Tuesday’s game at the Stadium of Light with only a few injury headaches, including former Sunderland midfielder David Vaughan. They do expect goalkeeper Stephen Henderson to return to the starting XI; he has been injured since February with an achilles problem.
Matty Cash, Adam Federici and Jamie Ward are the only guaranteed absentees on Tuesday night, with Forest chasing a first win on Wearside since 1993.
The story so far
Mark Warburton’s men started the season very well, with five wins out of six in all competitions, but have fallen to two straight defeats in their previous games.
Forest started the season with a 1-0 victory against Millwall - though they were outplayed for the majority of proceedings. They followed that victory with another, this time in London as they beat Brentford in a seven goal thriller, 4-3. An away defeat at Barnsley followed but they bounced back with two victories against North East opposition - 2-1 at home to the ‘Boro and 3-2 away at the Mags in the Carabao Cup.
A 2-0 defeat to Leeds in front of the Sky Cameras came before the international break before another two goal defeat came at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday evening - 3-1.
Last time out
Sheffield Wednesday were the opponents at the weekend for Forest, and for an hour Forest were well in the game. Wednesday took the lead in the 23rd minute through Gary Hooper, but were pegged back six minutes later by Ben Osborn. Though Forest dominated the ball for large periods, they largely flattered to deceive and eventually Sheffield Wednesday scored just after the hour, with former Sunderand striker Steven Fletcher grabbing the important goal. Ten minutes later Kieran Lee finished the game off with a close range finish to give Wednesday a vital victory.
A few possible options for the main man at Forest: former Sunderland striker Daryl Murphy? David Vaughan? Jason Cummings? The most impressive player I have seen for Forest this season is former Rangers man Barrie McKay, and I would say he is the man to watch for Forest on Tuesday. Mark Warburton parted with around £600k this summer to bring his former player to Nottingham, and it looks like shrewd business so far.
Barrie McKay has two goals and three assists already this season, and his reputation has only grown since his move from Ibrox this summer. He scored a splendid goal on his debut against Millwall, the match winner no less. He also bagged a crucial goal against ‘Boro in Forest’s victory over the promotion hopefuls last month. Even in Forest’s defeat on Saturday night against Sheffield Wednesday - McKay managed to get himself an assist for the only goal Forest managed on the day.
His record at Rangers last season was average at best though; five goals and four assists for the Scottish International was a poor return in 35 games in a weak league. But by the looks of things the 22 year old has taken to the Championship with ease.
Referee - Simon Hooper
The Wiltshire Whistler has never taken charge of a Sunderland game in his career - from my check of the records anyway. Hooper though has given 16 yellow cards this season and 1 red, so he clearly enjoys dishing out those yellows! The official has yet to referee Forest this season, though he did preside over two games last season where Forest played - a 2-0 home victory over Rotherham and a 2-2 draw away at Villa - in which he sent off a Forest player for a second yellow.
Manager - Marc Warburton
Warburton had an undistinguished playing career where he spent the majority of his career playing non-league football. He made the decision in the early 2000’s to focus on his coaching career, so he quit his job as a trader and began making the first steps into being a coach.
In 2013 Warburton landed himself the position of Brentford manager and guided the team to promotion from League One in his first season. It was then announced during the next season that Warburton would leave at the end of the season, but not before he guided the team to the Play-Offsand their eventual defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough.
Warburton took the Rangers job for the 2015-16 season, and guided them to a Scottish Cup final, and promotion back to the SPL. A disappointing SPL season followed, and Warburton eventually left in March with Rangers well out of the title picture.
He then landed at Forest, where he had to keep the team in the division. He did achieve that goal with no time to spare, a final day 3-0 win at home to Ipswich sealed Forest’s Championship membership for another season.
Nottingham Forest currently sit slap-bang in the middle of the Championship with 9 points from a possible 18. They have won three and lost three - scoring 9 goals and conceding 11.
The Forest style of play seems to be that attack is the best form of defence. Only Hull have seen more goals in games this season, and Forest have shown that they have the firepower to bag goals.
Fortunately, it seems that Forest have areas of weakness that Sunderland can exploit. A weakness in the air could give a player like James Vaughan a chance to really put a marker down in this game with his heading ability. Forest have been weak from set-pieces too, meaning Sunderland can hopefully utilise their quite large squad to good effect on Tuesday night.
However, the quality Forest have in midfield means that our weak defence could be sliced open many times during the game - giving opportunities to the likes of Darryl Murphy and Jason Cummings.
Forest have also showed a strong mental character this season, having pegged teams back when going behind on many occasions this season. If Sunderland can finally grab the opening goal at home, expect Forest to be right back in their faces trying to get one at the other end.
Without doubt, Sunderland can expect a very difficult game on Tuesday night against a team that knows where the net is.
Forest have lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation for home games this season, but have utilised a 3-1-4-2 on their travels. It is therefore probable that they will again go with three at the back, much like Sheffield United did on Saturday at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland have still not won a home game this year - at this rate we may go the whole of 2017 without tasting the sweetness of victory. Therefore my tip is to go for a score draw. 16/5 with Dafabet for both sides to hit the target but no one to grab a winner - maybe a bit optimistic from a Sunderland perspective, but surely we cannot play as bad as we did on Saturday?