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Match Preview: Can Sunderland get one over on promotion hopefuls Coventry? Winning is a must!

Sunderland take on Coventry this afternoon, though the stakes are much higher than getting the upper hand in some weird rivalry - both teams are aiming for promotion, and Phil Parkinson is desperate for a win. Will this game make or break our season?

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sunderland renew their weird rivalry with Coventry City on Saturday as the Wearsiders return to league action after a series of dismal cup games. While the talk of the pubs and clubs around the city will be of Jimmy Hill or some other event no-one can really remember, the Black Cats desperately need a win to halt an alarming run of form.

As Sunderland flounder, the Sky Blues are on a good run currently sitting third in League One and undefeated in their last five games. However, the visitors are yet to win on the road in the league this campaign so victory for Sunderland could provide a real boost at a pivotal point of the season.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Parky Says…

On recent form:

Our focus is on the league. We have 31 cup finals now and every bit of energy will be going into the league. It seems a long time since we had a league match. It’s been disjointed.

It’s good we have got some of the boys back from injury, a few of the boys back from the international break and we’re looking forward to getting our league campaign going again at the weekend.

On Coventry:

I played them this season with a very young Bolton Wanderers side so we know their qualities, we know what they are about and it is up to us to exploit their weaknesses.

We know how they are going to play in terms of the shape of the team. It is about negating their strengths and exploiting their weaknesses.

Sunderland v Gillingham - FA Cup Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Team News

Sunderland will have their first-choice centre-back pairing available at the weekend as both Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch were passed fit. Midfielder George Dobson is also back after missing the defeat at Gillingham on Tuesday. Parkinson confirmed that Charlie Wyke and Lynden Gooch are both still injured, while Conor McLaughlin is suspended. Marc McNulty is also struggling with a knock so may miss a reunion with his former side.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

View From The Opposition

Eager to emulate Sunderland’s 2018/19 campaign, Coventry have become the league’s draw specialists. The Sky Blues are sitting pretty in third place after five games without a defeat but Mark Robins’ are yet to record a victory on the road so far and have drawn eight of their 17 games.

City will be without Matty Godden and Max Biamou, who completes his suspension on Saturday. However, Robins will be able to welcome back striker Jordy Hiwula and Amadou Bakayoko, the pair caused havoc on their last visit to Wearside both scoring in the Sky Blues’ 5-4 win.

Robins said:

They’ve [Sunderland] got a really good side, there’s a lot of other players in that, a lot of other components to it and they’re a good team.

It helps in the knowledge that you’ve worked with the players [Willis, McNulty, Lee Burge, all former Coventry players] before so you do know them but ultimately you pay attention to their strengths and you also pay attention to weaknesses and potential weaknesses and you’ve got to try and exploit that and they’ll be doing exactly the same.

We have to be mindful of where we are, concentrate on us and what I mean by concentrating on us is you try and work on things where you perhaps feel a bit of weakness and keep doing the things that you think are good and hopefully you improve over time and this weekends no different.

We’ve got to go up there and know we’re going to a club that feel they should be in a higher division.

We’ve been in this division for quite a while now, obviously having dipped out of it for a little while and we want to try and build and keep building and that’s our aim.

Coventry City v Tranmere Rovers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

Match Stats

Venue: Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Kick-off: 3pm
Referee: Scott Oldham
Current position: 3rd
Last season position: 8th (League One)

Last 5 results:

SAFC

(FAC) Gillingham (A) 0-1
(LT) Scunthorpe United (A) 0-3
(FAC) Gillingham (H) 1-1
(LT) Leicester City U21 (H) 1-2
(L1) Southend United (H) 1-0

CCFC

(L1) Rochdale (H) 2-1
(FAC) Colchester United (A) 2-0
(LT) Southampton U21 (H) 3-2
(L1) Accrington Stanley (H) 0-0
(L1) Peterborough United (A) 2-2

The Sky Blues on Wearside

13 Apr 2019 (L1) Sunderland 4-5 Coventry City (Honeyman, Wyke, Grigg, Power)
03 Feb 2007 (CH) Sunderland 2-0 Coventry City (Yorke, Edwards)
19 Mar 2005 (CH) Sunderland 1-0 Coventry City (Brown)
08 Nov 2003 (D1) Sunderland 0-0 Coventry City
28 Oct 2000 (PL) Sunderland 1-0 Coventry City (Thome)

Top goalscorers (in all competitions)

4 - Amadou Bakayoko
4 - Matt Godden
4 - Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila
3 - Jordan Shipley
3 - Zain Westbrooke

Coventry City v Rochdale - Sky Bet League One - St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Last Time We Met

Coventry’s last visit Wearside will be fondly remembered as the game that broke Jack Ross’ brain. Conscious of Sunderland’s inability to kill off teams, the Scotsman fielded a more attacking line-up against the Sky Blues in mid-April. The plan didn’t work exactly to plan as Coventry raced into a 3-1 lead after 25 minutes.

However, goals from Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg had the scores level at half time. Two further goals from the visitors each side of a Max Power equaliser gave Coventry a baffling 5-4 away victory, despite it being one of the most boring nine-goal thrillers in recent memory.

The defeat ended Sunderland’s long unbeaten home run and ultimately set the wheels in motion for their promotion collapse. Having won six of their last nine, the Lads would win just one more game and lose to Charlton in the play-off final. Very cool.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images