After a good run of form put Sunderland back in the hunt for automatic promotion, three defeats on the spin have meant The Lads are now looking over their shoulder at the teams making a late run for the playoff places.
With the top two out of the question, Lee Johnson’s side should now focus on building up some momentum going into our last chance at promotion for this season, and the higher up in the division we can finish the better our chances are of getting a second Wembley visit of the season by the end of May.
On the injury front, Sunderland’s attack is at full strength, although the midfield options are slightly limited due to defensive injuries to Willis, Sanderson, Xhemajli, Vokins and McLaughlin.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
Saturday’s defeat away at Blackpool marked the fifth game in a row without a clean sheet for Lee Burge, a statistic which is a damning inditement of the recent drop off in Sunderland’s results and performances.
Despite conceding goals in all of Sunderland’s recent games, Saturday’s winner for the home side is the only goal in this recent run that can be classed as an error by Burge, and even then it was soft rather than a Jason Steelesque howler.
Regardless of the recent run, Matthews has already been deemed not good enough, so it will be Lee Burge starting between the posts tonight.
RB: Power CB: Wright CB: O’Nien LB: Hume
Sunderland's performance on Saturday was much better, even if the result wasn't, and for that reason I can't see any major changes being made to the side for tonight's game.
This means that Max Power, Bailey Wright and Luke O'Nien should all start at the back since none of their performances were poor enough to warrant Oliver Younger being called into the side.
One change I would make at the back, however, would be the return of Denver Hume in place of Callum McFadzean. The former Plymouth left back started the game fairly well on Saturday but was taken off before he was sent off - Hume is simply the better option, and must start against the division's top team.
CM: Scowen CM: Winchester
Josh Scowen, in contrast to McFadzean at left back, started the game on Saturday extremely poorly before slowly improving as the afternoon wore on. This improvement should be enough to keep him in the starting line up for today's game with Power still needed at full back.
Grant Leadbitter could be the man to make way in midfield after his mistake led to Blackpool's winning goal. Sunderland's good performance means we're likely to see a like for like replacement with Carl Winchester coming back into the team.
RM: Jones AM: Maguire LM: McGeady
Since Sunderland's general attacking set up worked in that they created enough chances to win the game, Aiden McGeady and Jordan Jones should both continue in the wide areas - with McGeady cutting inside and dropping short as Jones stays wide and stretches play in behind.
However, Aiden O'Brien struggled to get into the game at the weekend so Chris Maguire could make his return to the side to play in the role behind the lone striker after his lengthy absence.
After getting back on the scoreline against Wigan, Charlie Wyke could not get two in two at the weekend.
Despite this, Wyke remains the main striker and Sunderland's success seems to revolve around creating chances for our big number nine who will start every game between now and the end of the season if fit.