Sunderland take on an Oxford United side this afternoon who, like ourselves, are at a crucial juncture in their season. Despite a dip in form recently, Karl Robinson’s team are no mugs and are still hoping that they can earn themselves a spot in the League One Play-Off positions before the season ends.
Therefore, this game could well represent a good scalp for the U’s in their bid to regain promotion-winning form. Victory against an in-form Sunderland would announce that they’re back in the game, whilst for Phil Parkinson earning three points places further pressure on the teams above us in the table, who must surely be looking over their shoulders due to our fantastic recent form in League One.
This is a big game, with so much riding on it.
Have we got what it takes to get the job done?
I think more or less in that game [vs Newcastle United] it summed up Oxford. They’ve got some very good footballers but at times they look vulnerable defensively and Newcastle exploited that.
We’ve got to learn from teams who have done well against Oxford, and it’s important in every game to look at the areas where we’re think they’re week and also identify where they are strong. We need to make sure we’re switched on to that.
Every three points is huge. Is one three points bigger than the other? Like we said last week, if they are against a potential rival then of course you’re stopping them getting going again.
It’s another crucial game and we’re ready. We’re looking forward to it.
Despite withdrawing early into the second half of Tuesday night’s game with Rochdale, Chris Maguire is fine and is expected to play his part against his former club this afternoon. Phil Parkinson has shown immense faith in the Scottish playmaker, who has become an integral part of the side over recent months and is repaying his manager with regular goals and assists.
Parkinson, speaking of Maguire, said:
Chris got a dead leg and there was no need for us to take a risk with him. He feels a lot better today and he will be pushing for a place at the weekend.
Parkinson also offered an update on Joel Lynch, who will miss out today:
It’s Joel’s ribs that are more of a problem than anything else - the concussion is fine and his knee is fine. The issue is managing the pain he is getting from the ribs but I’m hoping that by Monday he will be back in full training.
There has been no update on Elliot Embleton, who remains sidelined after a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury set him back on his return to full fitness.
View From The Opposition
Karl Robinson appeared to be doing a fantastic job with Oxford in the first half of the season, but an unfortunate January saw the core of his side decimated by injuries and the sale of key players Shandon Baptiste and Tariq Fosu.
As such, their form has slipped and they’re now facing an uphill task to get back into the play-off positions, knowing that in order to get themselves back into a good position they’ll need to win games like the one they face with Sunderland today.
Robinson has remained upbeat, though, and maintains that his side and fit and firing after their midweek draw with the notoriously tough Burton Albion:
We will be ready.
The two days since Burton, we have trained and the players look fresh, sharp and motivated. They work so hard and we will all work harder now for each other. There is more to come from all of us and hopefully we start seeing the fruits of our labours through March and April.
There’s a vibrancy and freshness about the place which is brilliant. We spoke with the players this week about what it takes and what they have left in their tanks and the last couple of days have really helped us.
Speaking to Oxford’s official website, Robinson talked up his side ahead of the game and gave an update on the pool of players he has to pick from:
We are in a good place. We have only lost two games since the turn of the year but we have drawn too many in that run. Some games where we could have been out of sight because we have dominated, we haven’t taken our chances and ended up drawing and then the two defeats, against the teams who are first and second, look worse.
James Henry, Cameron Brannagan and Matty Taylor have all been out so you have to see it as a difficult period that we have come through. Those players have had to get match sharp in matches themselves and now we are without Alex Gorrin who is suspended and Jamie Hanson is out with an illness plus Liam Kelly is out, although his hamstring injury isn’t as bad as we first thought.
But we will be ready for Saturday and I really want to say thank you to the people of Oxford because they are phenomenal. It is one big group - we are just one small part of that - and we thank them for their support because they are the energy source that we are pulling from.
They are the ones who we are drawing our energy from, especially at home. We enjoy playing at home and have been doing well and want to continue that. It will be a big crowd so come along, get behind the team and be part of another big match for us.
Venue: Kassam Stadium, Mars
Current position: 10th
Last season position: 12th (League One)
Last 5 results:
(L1) Rochdale (H) 3-0
(L1) Ipswich Town (H) 1-0
(L1) Portsmouth (A) 0-2
(L1) Tranmere Rovers (A) 1-0
(L1) Doncaster Rovers (H) 0-0
(L1) Burton Albion (A) 2-2
(L1) Peterborough United (A) 0-4
(FAC) Newcastle United (H) 2-3
(L1) Blackpool (H) 2-1
(FAC) Newcastle United (A) 0-0
The Lads at Oxford
09 Feb 2019 (L1) Oxford United 1-1 Sunderland (Dunne)
27 Feb 1999 (D1) Oxford United 0-0 Sunderland
28 Dec 1997 (D1) Oxford United 1-1 Sunderland (Phillips)
11 Jan 1994 (D1) Oxford United 0-3 Sunderland (Smith 2, Goodman)
12 Sep 1992 (D1) Oxford United 0-1 Sunderland (Rush)
Top goalscorers (in all competitions)
11 - James Henry
10 - Tarique Fosu-Henry (now at Brentford)
10 - Matty Taylor
6 - Cameron Brannagan
3 - Shandon Baptiste