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Match Preview: Sunderland’s biggest test of the season comes today - can we emerge victorious?

Two promotion favourites go head-to-head today when Sunderland take on Peterborough at London Road. Both sides are in form and scoring goals - will Sunderland emerge victorious and establish themselves as a pack leader in League One?

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Booth/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s here! It’s really here! The Marcus Maddison derby!

Yes, that’s right, it’s not even Christmas yet, and Santa is blessing us with the gift of a muggy Saturday afternoon jaunt to London Road (or the Weston Homes Stadium these days) and the two kings of Twitter Stewart Donald and Darragh MacAnthony go head to head in a sort of weird Chairman death match in the August sun.

Both sides are on cracking runs - Sunderland are unbeaten in seven, winning the last five in a row whereas The Posh are unbeaten in three and come into the game on the back of an impressive 4-0 thrashing of Milton Keynes. It should be a cracker, or a horrendous 0-0 draw.

It’s a huge game, with both sides setting out their stall in pre-season that they are aiming for automatic promotion, and each team will going all out to show they have what it takes this year.

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Booth/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jack Ross Says...

On the surprise midweek win over Burnley...

Beforehand we knew we would have to play well to win the game tonight regardless of changes that were made because it was still a very good Burnley side we played tonight, with some very good individual players.

We had a period in the first half where we had to ride our luck, we came through that, and that gave us a platform to try and win it and then on our second half performance, I thought we deserved to do so.

It was a good night for us and we’ll take enormous confidence from it.

On the performance of our fringe players at Burnley:

Every player has given me plenty to think about. They are in control of what they do when they cross the white line. We have a group who train well every day and drive to be better all the time.

On the Sunderland fans:

It’s been a tough few years and we’ve taken a bit of stick in that time. For all those fans who have shown loyalty, travelled with us and been there, it was nice to give them that really good win at a Premier League team.

On Saturday’s game at London Road:

It’s nice to be on a run where you are building momentum. We need to try and keep that run going on Saturday. It will be difficult but that’s the challenge we’re faced with.

Burnley v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Team News

After three league wins on the bounce and perhaps our best performance of the season against AFC Wimbledon last weekend, you’d be inclined to plump for a line-up reminiscent of last weekend - but the rotated side that toppled Premier League Burnley in mid-week threw a spanner into the works.

On the injury front, last week’s hattrick hero Chris Maguire is likely to miss out with injury, as Jack Ross confirmed he had missed a good chunk of training. Though, the bad news may be counteracted by the return of Marc McNulty who rejoined full training late this week.

If both miss out, moving Luke O’Nien into the ten would be the natural replacement, or as an alternative the manager could opt to revert to a straight forward 4-4-2 with Will Grigg partnering Charlie Wyke.

There’ll be no return for Duncan Watmore, who has had a further set back and could miss the next month, whilst we expect Saturday to come too soon for new signing Joel Lynch.

Lee Burge, Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan did themselves no harm in midweek and all stand an outside chance of playing this weekend, although they are likely to have to be content with a spot on the bench. As for George Dobson, his performance at Turf Moor means he could be one of Wednesday’s heroes that does make it into the starting eleven, with Ross opting to give either Grant Leadbitter or Max Power a rest.

Either way, it’s pleasing for Jack Ross that he has a full squad of players vying for those precious starting berths.

Burnley v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

View from the opposition

Peterborough, or The Posh if you prefer, are one of those teams that seem to always be in the thoughts of many pundits when it comes to predicting promotion from the third tier, yet always seem to fall away when it matters most.

Hell, they were last season’s pacesetters up until about November, then just disappeared like a fart in the wind, eventually ending up outside the play-off spots behind Doncaster Rovers in sixth.

Ferguson’s side started poorly, losing at home to Fleetwood Town, before losing twice in a week to Oxford United (once in the League, and another in the League Cup). However, recently Posh have found their feet, scoring six goals in their last two games, with much of the team resurgence being aided by in form striking partnership of Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa, who have four goals each already.

They will come into the game full of confidence after thrashing newly promoted Milton Keynes last weekend, with manager Darren Ferguson relishing seeing how his team will do against “the biggest club in the League One”.

Ferguson said:

We’re playing well and we’ve won back-to-back away games without conceding a goal.

I don’t think this group would ever be complacent, but the fact we are playing the biggest club in League One and that it will be another fantastic atmosphere at our place ensures there will no over confidence.

I’m glad we are playing Sunderland now. We know we will have to produce or absolute best to win the game, but we will be confident of just doing that. It was a fantastic occasion when we played them towards the end of last season because both sets of fans really got involved.

I don’t see any reason why it won’t be just the same on Saturday. We are looking forward to it and I suspect Sunderland will be as well.

They will be strong, probably even stronger than last season when they lost in the play-off final.

They’ve recruited well and improved in some areas. They are rightly favourites to win the league because of their history and support.

They have plenty of quality and some dangerous players, but then so do we, so it should be a great game.

MK Dons v Peterborough - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Match stats

Venue: London Road, Peterborough
Kick-off: 3pm
Referee: Craig Hicks
Last season position: 7th (League One)

Last 5 results:

SAFC

(LC) Burnley (A) 3-1
(L1) AFC Wimbledon (H) 3-1
(L1) Rochdale (A) 2-1
(L1) Portsmouth (H) 2-1
(LC) Accrington Stanley (A) 3-1

PFC

(L1) MK Dons (A) 4-0
(L1) Southend United (A) 2-0
(L1) Ipswich Town (H) 2-2
(LC) Oxford United (A) 0-1
(L1) Oxford United (A) 0-1

Sunderland at London Road

22 Apr 2019 (L1) Peterborough United 1-1 Sunderland (Power)
08 Jan 2012 (FAC) Peterborough United 0-2 Sunderland (Larsson, McClean)
26 Mar 1994 (D1) Peterborough United 1-3 Sunderland (Russell, P.Gray 2)
07 Nov 1992 (D1) Peterborough United 5-2 Sunderland (Davenport, Rush)

Top goalscorers (in all competitions):

4 - Mohamed Eisa
4 - Ivan Toney
1 - Marcus Maddison

MK Dons v Peterborough - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Last Time We Met

Sunderland supporters felt the first real pang of burning disappointment (2018/19 version) the last time these two sides met at London Road.

On a boiling hot Easter Monday, the Lads thought the promotion party was in full force as Max Power lashed home with three minutes left on the clock. sending the away end into ecstasy and resulted in numerous flares onto the pitch.

However, joy turned to despair as Matt Godden equalised in injury time to condemn Sunderland to their 400th 1-1 draw of the campaign and ultimately kiss goodbye to automatic promotion.

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images