Peterborough United visit the Stadium of Light in what is already a table-topping fixture.
The Posh sit in second place, just a point behind Portsmouth, whilst Sunderland occupy fourth spot, four points behind. Both sides have lost only once all season and both have impressive strike rates.
Peterborough are the league’s top scorers with 26, whilst Sunderland are second in those stats, having scored six fewer - the same number as Portsmouth. Sunderland have a slightly better defence, conceding 10 compared to United’s 13, but these are small margins.
Tonight, two promotion chasers go head-to-head in an intriguing game. For Jack Ross, this is an opportunity to close the gap and make a statement of intent.
The Gaffer says...
For us to have lost only one league game in ten is a solid enough start. If you average two points a game over a season, it puts you on 92 points, which is pretty close to achieving automation promotion. We’ve got 19 points from 10 games. It’s important that we try and put down a marker [tonight] for where we want to be.
I think, as a starting point, we’ve given the fans a team that reflects their passion from the stand on the pitch. We’ve got areas that we need to get better in, but at least they can see that and I think you’ve seen that with their response to games as well.
It’s still relatively early in the season, but as the season started to develop and this one was on the horizon, we understood that it would be a big game for both teams. Their form has been terrific, and they’ve stayed in those top two places, by and large, all season. It’s a game we’re looking forward to.
As we expected, none of the players who picked up injuries on Saturday will be available for tomorrow night, and we’re having them assessed as we speak. Lee Cattermole is suspended and we have a few other doubts.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single game this season, but all for different reasons. We’re not shying away from where we want to be this year and to do that we need to beat teams like Peterborough, so that will be our aim.
I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the intensity around it and I’ve no other feelings other than excitement. It’s my first game, first proper game if you like, under the lights at the Stadium of Light and I look forward to that as well.
With a few injuries picked up at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, there will be a significant reshuffle this evening.
Recalled Scottish international goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin, will be keen to gain a second clean sheet of the season, but much will depend on the defenders ahead of him.
With Glenn Loovens and Denver Hume both missing tonight, there is an expectation that Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo will return to the side. Whether Jack Ross opts to bring them both in as conventional full-backs and changes to a back four, or whether the current wing-back formation is maintained, remains to be seen.
If Ross does opt for a back-four that could allow either Jerome Sinclair or Aiden McGeady to support Josh Maja, in the same way Chris Maguire is currently. Playing three attackers may expose Peterborough’s defence, but given The Posh have the best strike-rate in the division, is Ross better advised to stick with his current formation?
If we suggest Ross remains consistent with his tactics, Oviedo would naturally replace Hume at left wing-back. For Matthews, however, Ross must decide whether to ask him to play as part of the back three or replace Lynden Gooch on the right hand side.
If the latter, then Ross could utilise Reece James in the centre of defence, but it’s more likely that Alim Öztürk will return as a natural centre half.
If the former, then a decision will have to be made as to who comes in on the right hand side. George Honeyman could be switched to the role, allowing Chris Maguire to operate deeper and Jerome Sinclair to support Josh Maja from the left. Alternatively, Luke O’Nien could be asked to play the right wing-back role, although it would present a risk to ask the former Wycome man to return to the side to play out of position against one of the league’s top sides. Donald Love may offer another option, if he can prove his fitness.
In midfield, the suspended Lee Cattermole will sit this one out. Whilst the former captain will be gutted to miss the home game against Peterborough, it does allow Max Power to resume his midfield role. Against Coventry, Power came off the bench to play the deep-lying role, but with Dylan McGeough available, the Scot will provide the creative base in the Sunderland midfield.
Josh Maja is a fitness concern, but the chances are the youngster will continue is his role tonight. With an impressive strike record this season, the teenager will be keen to add to his tally under the Stadium of Light floodlights this evening.
With only one defeat in ten, Peterborough’s start has been impressive this season. A draw against Blackpool knocked them off top spot and manager Steve Evans will be keen to regain the position with a win tonight, providing Coventry can hold Portsmouth at home.
Peterborough sit four points ahead of Sunderland by virtue of seven wins and two draws, as opposed to our recored of five wins and four draws. Evans has amassed an impressive strike-force, with Matt Gooden top scorer on seven and former Sunderland target Jason Cummins on six. Goals have also come from midfield, with Mark O’Hara scoring four times this season and Siriki Dembélé three. Between the four of them, they also have 11 assists and an average 62% shots-on-target ratio.
Needless-to-say, Sunderland will have to be at their best tonight to keep a clean sheet. Like Sunderland, however, The Posh have only kept one shut-out all season, when they beat Charlton 1-0 at The Valley.
Who’s up for a boring 0-0?
Lynden Gooch is expected to be out for a couple of weeks, following his injury on Saturday, whilst scans for both Denver Hume and Glenn Loovens will give the Sunderland medical team a clearer picture on their injuries over the coming few days.
Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore remain the long-term absentees, although Watmore continues to pass key milestones as he is training with the first team again.
Aiden McGeady is another who is closing in on a first team return, having made the matchday squad and stepped up training himself. It is hoped the trio will be firing on all cyclinders, come the second half of the campaign.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Turnstiles will be open for tonight’s game. Cash turnstiles will be open from 6.30pm. The FanZone will be open from 5.30pm until 7.30pm for supporters to enjoy a pre-match drink and entertainment.
For those who can’t make it in person, the match will streamed live. Fans in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man can watch the game via the UK Match Pass, available on www.safc.comlive and priced at £10 per game. The International Pass is available for fans outside the UK, priced at £5.99.
Audio packages, providing live commentary from around 7pm, are also available via SAFC.com.
We’ll also be providing live commentary via our Twitter page and, after the game, there’ll be a match report and player ratings article on the site - so keep an eye out for that.