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Big Match Preview: Bristol City v Sunderland; Rodwell returns to the fold ahead of crunch clash

Sunderland head to the West Country this afternoon to take on high-fliers Bristol City in search of three much-needed points, with a rarely-seen character in tow making up part of their travelling contingent.

Bristol City v West Ham United - FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Sunderland take on promotion hopefuls Bristol City this afternoon at Ashton Gate knowing that, despite some awful recent form, a win could potentially take them out of the bottom three in the Championship.

With 22nd-place Hull City facing a tough game away at Nottingham Forest, and Barnsley in a massive South Yorkshire derby with fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday, a victory down south coupled with results going in our favour elsewhere will see Chris Coleman’s side climb out of the relegation zone.

The alternative, however, is that a loss could send us bottom if Burton Albion manage to take all three points in their game with our opponents last weekend Ipswich.

Such is the life of an ailing Championship club. What it should tell us is that this relegation battle still has a long way to run, and there are still plenty of points to play for. Other teams above us in the league - like Sheffield Wednesday, and Reading - could yet be dragged into the mix, and we just have to concentrate on ourselves. Our fate is still very much in our own hands.

West Ham United v Sunderland: Premier League 2
Rodwell in action for the U23s in midweek
Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images

With three defenders missing - Lamine Kone, Marc Wilson and Adam Matthews - it’s expected that forgotten man Jack Rodwell will make up part of the Sunderland squad today.

The former-Manchester City man played a full ninety minutes at centre half for Elliott Dickman’s U23s side in their 1-0 midweek victory over West Ham United, giving the clearest indication yet that, despite the fact it’s clear both the player and the club would rather he wasn’t here, he’ll be made to earn his seventy grand a week wage should Chris Coleman order him to do so.

The former Wales manager has called for unity from supporters, in particular those talking about the potential of fan protest against the strife that Sunderland AFC finds itself off the pitch.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Unity needed.
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

It’s true that the team needs us now more than most - and it must be stressed that each and every supporter is undoubtedly behind the manager and his team.

The human embodiment of that claim will be the travelling contingent out in force this afternoon in the away end at Ashton Gate - 1500 hardy souls will be in attendance to back the lads in red and white, many of whom will have made the arduous 600-mile round trip to the West country by road or train.

And God knows that they deserve a win. Short trips when you are the team furthest North in the division are few and far between, and many long treks back to Wearside have been made already this season on the back of humiliating defeats - it was less than a month ago that we were humbled in the Welsh capital by Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City.

These fans need to go home knowing that each and every player gave their all for the team that they are so fortunate to represent on a weekly basis. Will they do it? Time will tell.