Sunderland take on a Coventry City side today who are also in promotion-winning form, and who are also very aware of what losing this high-stakes game could mean.
If we win, we go above them. If they win, they’ll widen the gap between us and them by six points. With games and time running out, Sunderland can ill-afford slipping up at crucial moments such as this. Victory firmly cements us as one of the league’s top sides.
The team will be backed by a sizeable away following at St Andrews today, and the fans in attendance have picked up the scent of promotion. It’s so close, and we’ve done a tremendous job of getting ourselves into this position after such an average start to the season. Can we continue to show the fight and quality we’ve displayed for the last few months now as we head into the business end of the campaign?
16 wins, 13 draws and three losses - Coventry City might not be League One’s most clinical side, but they’re arguably the toughest to beat. They last tasted defeat on the 14th of December and, prior to that, they lost two games on the bounce in October (to Rotherham and Tranmere respectively). Their form is scarily reminiscent to that shown by Jack Ross’s Sunderland last season, with the Sky Blues drawing almost as many games as they’ve won.
Their form has really picked up since their last loss, winning nine of their last 12, keeping five clean sheets. Wins against fellow promotion hopefuls Portsmouth, Wycombe and Doncaster in that spell has added credence to the belief that Mark Robins can lead this side to yet another promotion, taking Coventry back to the second tier for the first time since 2012.
Robins was full of praise for Phil Parkinson in his pre-match press conference, and seems pretty level-headed about his side’s chances of reaching the finish line whilst occupying one of the top two positions in the League One table:
Sunderland will be a challenge, they have some really good players and they’ve changed things round a lot. Phil Parkinson has had success wherever he’s been really and he’s done really well and you can see what he does.
We have 12 games to go and if we can win 8 of them we will have a real good chance, but there will be a lot of teams saying the same. It’s going to be really interesting to see who can hold their nerve and if we finish in the play offs that will be a very successful season.
We go there with the mentality to play like the home team. We are at our best when we are positive and on the front foot and that is the mindset we have to take to St Andrew’s.
So many teams are on good runs so everybody is in the mix. We are pleased to be where we are but now is the business end and we have to be ready to give everything - off the ball and on the ball with bravery and creativity.
In his press conference, Phil Parkinson said that despite a few players having cuts and bruises, things are as they were on the injury front. Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke picked up knocks on Tuesday night and are ‘minor doubts’.
Only Bailey Wright and Elliot Embleton remain long-term first team absentees.
The players not enjoying much game time played in a friendly behind closed doors midweek, running out 5-2 winners - will any of the performances witnessed by the Sunderland manager give him food for thought ahead of today’s game?
Wyke & Gooch minor doubts for the game on Sunday.— Phil Smith (@Phil__Smith) February 28, 2020
Nothing serious, but PP knows he has players ready if they're not quite right.
Tommy Smith and Declan John among the players to feature in the friendly the other day.
All senior players involved got 60 minutes.
Where can I catch the game?
ON THE TELLY!
Yes, the reason we’re playing at an unsociable time on a Sunday is because of Sky TV. The plus side if you aren’t one of the many thousands of fans heading to St Andrews for the game is that you can watch this at dinner time, live on subscription TV.
That means that if you are an international SAFSee subscriber, you won’t be able to watch the game the way that you usually would. You can, however, listen to match commentary from BBC Newcastle’s Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett, or find a dodgy stream online for it...