Sunderland go in search of their third successive league win as Plymouth Argyle make the long journey up to the Stadium of Light.
Jack Ross’ side are looking to extend their 13-match unbeaten run and could move into the automatic promotion places if they beat The Pilgrims and Barnsley fail to beat Southend United in the early kick-off.
Derek Adams’ Argyle are in decent form and will be backed by over 1,500 members of the Green Army travelling from the West Country for this pivotal clash.
The gaffer says...
It’s a team [Plymouth Argyle] that for the last few months has been in really good form. But we’ve had that a lot recently, even going back to Scunthorpe away, I know we only drew the game against a team at that time that were in brilliant form.
Bristol Rovers last week, a team that hadn’t lost since we played them at the turn of the year. So, quite often you’re coming up against teams that are in good form.
They might not necessarily be at the top of the table because of that but have been in good recent form and Plymouth certainly fall into that category.
I would imagine that they’ll come to the stadium believing that they can go and win the game because of the form they’re in and rising to that occasion. But often, those games have suited us this season as well.
How are the Lads shaping up?
Donald Love could be in line for a return to the matchday squad for the first time since early-September. The Manchester United youth product has been sidelined since the home game with Oxford United, but Ross is weary not to rush the defender back.
Both Bryan Oviedo and Chris Maguire are definitely out of the Plymouth game, while Ross confirmed that the squad is carrying a few niggles ahead of the Pilgrims clash.
There will be a temptation to stick with the same starting XI that put Bristol Rovers to the sword last weekend. Following his impressive cameo at the Memorial Stadium, Ross could opt for Lewis Morgan ahead of Duncan Watmore - the latter struggled to make an impact on the game in Bristol.
After a wretched start to the season, Plymouth Argyle are enjoying a strong run of form and arrive at the Stadium of Light with just one defeat in their last ten league games. Derek Adams’ men currently lie in 14th place and will be full of confidence following their 5-1 demolition of Rochdale in their last outing.
Adams is sweating on the fitness of forward Freddie Ladapo, who is carrying a knock from the Rochdale game, and confirmed he will be assessed before the match. The striker has been instrumental in Argyle’s turnaround in form and, alongside midfielder Rúben Lameiras, has contributed 23 goals so far this campaign. Ladapo’s absence would be a huge blow to Plymouth but Adams can call upon Ryan Taylor (not that one) to deputise.
The Plymouth boss didn’t give much away in his pre-match press conference but did confirm he would be without winger Joel Grant. The game also comes a little early for both Conor Grant and Jamie Ness.
Confidence is high within the Argyle camp and skipper Gary Sawyer believes the Pilgrims can pose a stern test for Sunderland. Speaking to the Plymouth Herald, Sawyer said:
I think it’s a good time to play them. The pitch should be similar to ours I would have thought, which will help us. We are in a situation where I don’t think we are fearing anyone.
It’s a massive game for us. We know how good a team Sunderland are, and how good a club they are. It will be great for the boys. You haven’t got to give it any introduction. It’s Sunderland at the end of the day. They are a Premier League club and it will be great to see what we can do up there.
We will definitely be going up there to try and win the game.
Last Time We Met...
The Sunderland supporters that embarked on the mammoth trip to Home Park in November were rewarded with an Aiden McGeady-inspired performance from the Black Cats. The Irishman netted a brace, including a delightful solo run and shot from 25 yards, to give the visitors a 2-0 win and record a fifth straight league win bumping them up to second place.
It was a much different scene when The Pilgrims last visited the Stadium of Light on a sun-kissed afternoon in August 2006. The feel-good factor from the Drumaville takeover was ebbing away as Niall Quinn’s Sunderland side suffered a third successive defeat on their return to the second tier.
An early goal from Daryl Murphy was quickly cancelled out by Argyle’s David Norris before 47-year-old Barry Hayles put the visitors in front. Stephen Elliott equalised for Sunderland only for Nick Chadwick to slot home the winner eight minutes from time to give Plymouth their first win on Wearside since 1992 and convinced Quinn to appoint Roy Keane.
The rest is history.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Tickets are currently on sale, with prices starting from £20 for adults and £7.50 for under-16s. The ticket office will open from 10am until kick-off while cash turnstiles will also be available from 1.30pm in the East Stand, priced at £20 with no concessions.
Those unable to attend, you can tune into BBC Radio Newcastle and the club website from 2pm where Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett will guide you through the action. The game is also also available via the Match Pass stream for international supporters. Full details can be found at SAFC.com.
We’ll be providing live commentary via our Twitter page and will have a match report and player ratings after the final whistle.