Jack Ross takes his Sunderland side to Adams park for the club’s first ever visit to Wycombe where Wanderers will be anticipating this game being a sell-out, and their biggest crowd of the season.
For cup finalists Sunderland this is a chance to refocus on the aim of securing promotion back to the Championship, closing the gap on Barnsley ahead of the crunch second versus third clash on Tuesday evening would be a great start for Ross’ men. For Wycombe, even a point at home may ensure they remain in mid-table safety.
Two teams with differing ambitions, but both looking to make this season a success. Led by ambitious young managers - it has the promise to be a big game in front of a sell-out crowd.
The Gaffer says...
The players rested [Wednesday], back in [Thursday] and everything is focused on the next match now. We’ve got some really important league games coming up. We’re very much focused on the league now until the cup final comes around and then we’ll enjoy the week, but in the meantime it’s very obvious to see we’ve got some very important league games.
Our focus is all on the next match [and] you’re looking more at continuity and you’re picking players who are in good form. We’ve got a lot of them at the moment. It’s very much about Saturday and winning that game.
I’ve spoken often enough about the players retaining a fairly balanced mood for most of the season, realising that we’ve got a lot of important fixtures ahead that we need to win to make sure we achieve the ultimate goal this season which is promotion.
[Regarding Wycombe] Gareth is someone I’ve got a lot of admiration for and the job he’s done. They maybe haven’t had the best of results recently but even the games I’ve watched, the one thing they do is keep themselves in games and they very much seem like they all buy into how he wants to play.
Again, every away game we go to we sell out our allocation, it’s a big support we’re taking and if it’s not their biggest support of the season it will be very close to it.
We’ve dealt with that very well throughout the season and this will be another challenge on Saturday.
The state of play...
Sunderland sit in third spot, two points off Barnsley and three ahead of Portsmouth. With a game in hand on both rival clubs, the recent winning run has come at a great time for Ross and his side. Sunderland have lost only twice all season, but 14 draws was beginning to be a cause of concern. Nine points from the previous three games has turned that trend around, and successive clean sheets have been secured in the league.
Barnsley host mid-table Accrington Stanley this afternoon whilst fourth plays fifth as Portsmouth travel to Charlton Athletic.
For Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe today offers a chance to turn around a run of six games without a win. Lying in 12th spot following four consecutive defeats, the Choirboys will be hoping the sell-out crowd has a positive effect on them this afternoon. A win could lift them above Burton Albion into 11th, whilst defeat could send them spiralling down as far as 18th if results conspire against them.
Today is bound to be an emotional one for two players - Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien makes his return to Adams Park, whist Wycombe skipper Matt Bloomfield looks set to make his 500th appearance for the club.
Jack Ross once more has a nigh-on full strength squad to choose from for today’s game.
Bryan Oviedo and Donald Love are back in training, but both lack game-fitness so won’t be rushed back. Denver Hume was named amongst the substitutes in midweek following his own recovery, leaving only Chris Maguire absent through injury. George Honeyman is available today after being carefully monitored following an impact injury sustained on his hip during the game at Bristol Rovers.
The inclusion of Adam Matthews and Max Power in that cup semi-final in Bristol on Tuesday evening may have given Ross specific food for thought. Both players performed well and will have laid down a marker to be considered today.
However, it is expected that both Lee Cattermole and Reece James will be fit following slight knocks picked up last weekend against Plymouth. It is anticipated that both players will return to the side as Ross makes these two changes, reverting from the cup team to the league side that performed so well last Saturday.
With such an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, Jack Ross will continue to disappoint a number of players who have played key roles so far this season. Jack Baldwin is likely to miss out as Tom Flanagan and Jimmy Dunne continue in central defence, for example, whilst Dylan McGeouch may not even make the bench today.
The view from the Home dressing room...
Wycombe lie bottom of the form table, having suffered four straight defeats. Fans of the Choirboys will point to the fact they’ve played Luton, Barnsley and Peterborough in that spell but they have only scored three times in their last five outings. Perhaps the visit of Sunderland is the last thing they need today.
However, manager Gareth Ainsworth has been focusing on his own team and singled out skipper Matt Bloomfield as a ‘Wycombe legend’ ahead of what will be his 500th appearance in the dark and light blue quarters this afternoon:
The man is just a true Wycombe legend. In today’s game there won’t be many players who play 500 games for a club, let alone Wycombe, so he deserves all the plaudits he gets. If it is to be his 500th on Saturday then well done Matt Bloomfield. He’s a fantastic person and a real good friend which goes on beyond football.
In this game but you can’t buy the heartbeat of people, you can’t buy the desire and that team ethic. We’ve got all of those things going for us so it wouldn’t surprise me if the results go against the grain on Saturday but at the same time, we’ve got to earn it.
The past has proven this club can come up with the goods, especially when a huge team comes to town.
It’s Sunderland, it’s a full house and it’s almost a bit of a carnival atmosphere for them. We really want to try and break that. We want to give a fantastic account of ourselves as we have done against the like of Barnsley, Peterborough and Doncaster at home.
On Saturday we’re facing the likes of [Aiden] McGeady and some other real fantastic players that we’ve got to contend with but we’ve got some big names too and I look forward to pitting my wits against one of the best in the league.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Sunderland take another large following of over 2,700 fans south today, with the game sold out. Wycombe have their own Fanzone sites and Sunderland fans are invited to use the Printkick Fan Zone by the stadium gates.
For those unable to attend, audio commentary will be provided by Nick Barnes from around 2pm on both BBC Newcastle and the club website.
The game is also available via the Match Pass stream for international supporters. Full details can be found 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.