Like every match at this stage of the season the visit of Burton to the Stadium of Light is an absolutely crucial fixture, but after back to back wins on the road Jack Ross’ men have put the cup final disappointment firmly behind them and will be confident of making the most of one of our games in hand.
The victory at Accrington was a clinical, professional performance and the comeback over Rochdale was a statement win. Those results were compounded by Barnsley failing to pick up three points, meaning that we are now level with The Tykes and hold two games in hand over them.
Excitement and momentum around this team is building at the perfect time, with the likes of Charlie Wyke and Dylan McGeouch going from benchwarmers to shoe-ins for the starting eleven, but can they help to inspire The Lads to victory tonight?
The Gaffer Says...
Tomorrow evening is big for us. It becomes our most important game of the season. Unless we get to a position where we achieve what we want, our mindset has to be like that. The squad are excited for the final four games of the season.
They are a good side. They are only one of two teams to beat us in the league this season and they deserved to win that day.
We have difficult games in the run-in, like every team has, but it is nice to be back at home and we understand the importance of tomorrow evening. Any team that has come to our stadium this year has always responded to the atmosphere and the environment. I have never really taken into account where a team is in the table. Naturally, when you get to this stage of the season there will be teams who fall in the bracket Burton are in at the moment.
The reality is that we are playing against a very good team and a team who has played well against us this season.
On the Rochdale win:
The surge of emotion for us was more related to the manner we won the game. That is why players were so delighted. We understand the significance of the win but we don’t get concerned by other team’s results.
If we win every game we will be promoted. That hasn’t changed.
For us it is more significant for my players. To ask them to put so much into those two games post-Wembley and produce a performance level to then draw level with second place is exciting for them.
It just heightens the importance of tomorrow evening. When you reach a position where the rewards of winning games are obvious in terms of where it takes you in the table then it becomes even more real. The players are in a good place and on the back of the two away games we have had since the cup final, that has only increased as well.
The State of Play...
Did I mention that winning this game puts us 2nd in the table yet? Well, it does. That’s what at stake on Tuesday night. Needless to say the fans, players and manager are all aware of that fact so the pressure is going to be on, but can the lads handle it and respond the right way?
If you want to get carried away and look at the broader picture then winning these two games in hand will actually leave the lads just two points behind Luton in the top spot, who staged a dramatic comeback with ten men against Blackpool to pinch a draw at the weekend.
So while the League One title itself is not in our hands, we can really step up the chase and test Luton’s nerve if we keep churning out victories.
Our opponents on Tuesday find themselves afloat in the middle of the table. 10th place on 56 points is enough to declare them safe from the crazy League One relegation battle but probably not enough to consider them in the playoff hunt, as they are 10 points away from Doncaster who occupy that last berth.
Although if they’re anything like every single other team to visit the Stadium of Light this season they won’t find motivation hard to come by. Oh, and they also managed to beat Barnsley at the weekend. So, thanks, but now you can stop playing so well.
The only new update is that Lynden Gooch is sidelined after that knock he picked up on Saturday and will likely be out for at around two weeks. Otherwise, Cattermole has been ruled out again and Aiden McGeady is a doubt with the same injury that kept him out of the side against Rochdale - but he has been training, so there’s always a chance.
Chris Maguire, Adam Matthews and Duncan Watmore are all still out, however the King is expected to rejoin training this week, just in time for the run in.
Our opponents are currently concerned about the fitness of their captain Jake Buxton after he picked up a strain in their win over Barnsley. Otherwise they are still without winger David Templeton, and an illness in the squad has affected Kyle McFadzean and on-loan Spurs midfielder Will Miller, who are doubts.
View from the opposition...
Burton’s manager Nigel Clough is always very pragmatic in his press conferences and his latest quotes are no different.
They are bound to be on a high after their recent performance against Barnsley and most of their squad will have fond memories of their last visit (Which we will not be discussing any further thank you very much). Despite this, Clough was very complimentary about the lads praising the character we have:
The fact that they have only lost two games all season shows their strength in this league and how resilient they are.
Sunderland will have to be at their best, especially defensively - the Brewers have scored 11 times in their last 3 matches.
Last time we met...
Sunderland picked up one of only two losses in the league this season, but Maguire did score the goal of the month in a 2-1 loss.
However getting revenge over Burton will be at the back of the players minds when the prize of promotion appears the closest its been all season.