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Burton’s THREE key players to watch - including the man who relegated Sunderland last season...

As Sunderland look to move into second place we look at which Burton players could place a spanner in the works and halt our ascent up the table - including the man who condemned us to relegation last season!

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Lucas Akins

League One Games/Goals: 40/10

To say 30-year-old Akins is versatile would be the understatement of the season.

Burton manager Nigel Clough has utilised him in no less than FIVE positions this term, with the Brewers boss placing him at centre-back, right-back, left-back, on the wing and as a striker.

Despite being moved around the pitch though, Akins is having his best season to date for his team and is currently on a terrific run of form, scoring four goals in his last six games whilst playing as a striker, where he is perhaps the most comfortable.

Joining in 2014, the former Stevenage player is firmly established as a fan favourite at the Pirelli for his hard working performances and eye for a goal, he was purchased during the Gary Rowett era and was part of the squad that achieved back-to-back promotions, picking up two player of the year awards on the way.

He’s a handful and he’s absolutely bang on form.

Liam Boyce

League One Games/Goals: 33/10

Currently the Brewers record signing, the 27-year-old has had some career path going all the way from the Bundesliga to Burton Albion since leaving his home in Northern Ireland as a teenager.

After an outstanding season in the SPL for Ross County, manager Nigel Clough marked out Boyce as his key summer signing to aid his team in a a battle against the drop, however before he even kicked a ball he suffered a horrific knee injury that forced him out of Burton’s season almost in its entirety.

Since notching a last minute winner at the Stadium of Light to condemn us to relegation to League One last year, Boyce has managed to maintain his fitness and show Burton fans the type of form that made them shell out £500k two summer’s ago, hitting eleven goals and assisting a further seven this term.

After scoring against our promotion rivals Barnsley at the weekend, he’ll be looking to take advantage of any slack defending at the Stadium of Light.

A true old-school sniffer. If we concede, it’s likely to be this man who’s done the damage.

Jamie Allen

League One Games/Goals: 36/8

Into his second season at the Pirelli Stadium, Allen has been the pick of their midfielders this term and is enjoying his best term to date.

The midfielder originally struggled after leaving his boyhood club Rochdale to test himself in the Championship, but since Albion’s demotion to the third tier, he has managed to turn into a key player in the engine room with a keen eye for goal - notching eight times already this term from a defensive midfield position (who does he think he is, Lee Cattermole?).

Allen’s presence in the holding role for Burton caused Sunderland all-sorts of problems in the 2-1 defeat earlier in the season. Don’t let his deep lying role fool you though, as Allen’s big danger is looking to break past front-man Liam Boyce and into goal-scoring positions, as he did when he scored the winner against us earlier in the season.

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