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MATCH PREVIEW: The Red & White Army descend on Coventry as Sunderland look for back-to-back wins

Having registered our first win in September, can Jack Ross inspire Sunderland to successive victories as we take on an old adversary from the West Midlands?

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Sunderland travel to the West Midlands today in search of back-to-back wins as we take on Coventry City on their own turf for the first time in 12 years. The last time the two sides met at the Ricoh Arena was on the opening day of the 2006/07 Championship campaign, when the Sky Blues ran out 2-1 winners.

Our victory over Rochdale will have lifted any concerns over a mini win-less run and the lunchtime kick-off gives us a great opportunity to build on those three points. With Peterborough due to visit the Stadium of Light in three days time, taking maximum points from Coventry would set us up nicely.

Manager Mark Robins will look to home advantage to recover from last week’s 3-1 reverse at Bristol Rovers and build on the three victories the Sky Blues have secured so far this season. However, having seen a positive reaction from our defeat at Burton, Jack Ross will go into this game in positive fashion, backed by a huge travelling support.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League
Sunderland fans will be out in force today
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Gaffer says...

It’s important to stress that the supporters have been incredibly supportive with what I’ve tried to do at the club. We go to Coventry on Saturday representing 5,000 people. It’s just very much reflective of the commitment and loyalty of the fan base. The timing of the game, it been on television and the distance involved in terms of travelling, to take around 5,000 fans is just remarkable. But, with that comes expectation.

It should give you that extra drive and motivation to go and produce that result for them. There’s no better feeling in football than celebrating with such a travelling support as that. It is remarkable. It’s not patronising to say that, I think the fact sheets speak for themselves in that. To take that number of fans to an away game in those circumstances is terrific.

All of our games have been this season, both home and away, they’ve been really challenging for a variety of reasons. To be where we are is encouraging because I do think we will get better. We’ve shown signs of that already that we’ve progressed and even having that knock of the defeat, our reaction to that has been encouraging.

So, another tough game, we’re away from home which is obviously on paper, always more challenging than been at home. But, we’re going into it on the back of an encouraging performance and also going into it with almost a fully fit squad.

It’s nice to have [Max] available again. It gives us great options for this week ahead because I don’t think we can ignore the fact that we’ve got three games this week. Obviously, a tough away game [at Coventry] then followed by a really big game on Tuesday against Peterborough, before the weekend’s fixture again. So, we’re going to have to utilise that squad in those games and having Max available in that area of the pitch gives not only options for Saturday, but for Tuesday as well.

The players that have trained really well this week. The mood, the confidence, the positivity around the group never diminished after the Burton game and it’s encouraging to see that continue. I look forward to them taking that into the performance.

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Jack Ross will be hoping to give the travelling fans much to cheer about today
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Team News...

It has been positive to hear news of Aiden McGeady’s continued recovery and also to witness Duncan Watmore back in full training this week. Ross will remain cautious with both players to ensure we get the best possible return from them this season, but the news leaves only Charlie Wyke as the major absentee.

Wyke will be out for a few weeks yet, but Josh Maja continues to perform extremely well; ably assisted last week by the superb Chris Maguire. A brace last weekend leaves Maja with seven goals from nine games, and he will be keen to reach double figures as quickly as possible.

At the back, the introduction of Tom Flanagan gave the defence a distinctive shape, with three centre-halves and two young wing-backs. Lynden Gooch excelled, grabbing two goals himself, whilst Denver Hume, recalled at the expense of Bryan Oviedo, showed great progress. It’s highly likely Jack Ross will maintain the personnel that performed so well last Saturday.

The big decision today will come in midfield. With Lee Cattermole playing well at present, the former skipper is likely to retain his place at Coventry. However, does Max Power come straight back in, or does Ross stick with Dylan McGeough? The Scot needs game time to find his rhythm and showcase his undoubted talent. But does that come at the expense of captain George Honeyman? It’ll certainly be a dilemma Ross will relish having.

Will Max Power come straight back in today?
Image: Getty Images

The Opposition...

Mark Robins rejoined Coventry City eighteen months ago. Having stabilised the team, he led them to sixth place in League Two last season. Having qualified for the play-offs, Robins was determined that his team would win out, and duly secured promotion by defeating Exeter City 3-1.

Their return to League One has seen mixed results. Three wins and four defeats speaks of a somewhat inconsistent side. Having beaten promotion-hopefuls Barnsley 1-0, City lost 3-1 at third-bottom Bristol Rovers last weekend.

Coventry do have an excellent home record against Sunderland, having lost just 3 times in 20 games in the West Midlands, winning 12 and drawing 5.

Robins will be looking for a response from players and is backing his side to bounce back in what many see as their biggest game of the season:

I guarantee we will get a reaction. We have got to make sure we get their heads in the right place this week.

Coventry City v Exeter City - Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final
Mark Robins led Coventry to Play-off success back in May.
Image: Getty Images

Where Can I Catch The Game?

Approximately 5,000 Sunderland fans will travel to the Ricoh Arena today, having sold out the away end. For those who can’t make it in person, the game is live on Sky Sports, as the featured lunchtime kick-off. Coverage starts at noon.

Alternatively, audio is provided on the club website by Nick Barnes, and you can tune in to that from around 12pm on 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.