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Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League 1

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The biggest game of the season so far - so how should Sunderland approach it?

Rotherham might well be in indifferent form, but they are still a huge threat, and it’ll be tough for us. How should Sunderland set up and approach this game?

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Matt Smith says...

It’s a given that the Rotherham game will be a massive test, for fans and players alike. If we’re to finally get out of this league through the play offs then we’ll need to get a comfortable win, backed to the hilt by an intimidating home crowd, against a team of a similar calibre to Rotherham - maybe even against Rotherham themselves.

A win on Tuesday would give a huge psychological edge, you’d like to think, ahead of a potential play-off double header.

Pragmatism gets a bad press but it’s an approach that’s been good to us of late. A draw wouldn’t be terrible as long as we can beat a Morecambe side who will be desperate for at least a point to be certain of safety. Yet a draw accepts what looks inevitable, giving up on automatic promotion, and I can’t shake off the certainty that nothing’s inevitable until it actually happens.

We have momentum. Rotherham have stuttered of late. That 10 goal difference would be reduced to only 2 or 4 in the event of, respectively, a 4-0 or 3-0 win.

A reasonably comfortable win on the final day against Morecambe with Rotherham losing against a Gillingham side needing a win for survival, and MK Dons also losing to Plymouth, would see us take an implausible 2nd place. With our goals for being far in excess of Rotherham’s, we wouldn’t even need to surpass their goal difference.

It’s at this point in the season that the ‘What ifs?’ become ever more fanciful. Gillingham’s not too far from Canterbury and The Millers Tale could have an ending that leads to heartbreak for them and delirium for us.

That’s the sort of thing that we live for but Alex Neil is accountable to a more prosaic reality and, to be fair, it’s definitely for the best that more level heads than mine are in charge.

Still, I fancy us to get a hard-earned 1-0 win and secure our ticket for the play-off lottery.

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

Gav says...

Rotherham may be in poor form, but they’re still a huge threat.

Alex Neil sets his teams up to negate the opponent from game to game, and I expect that this game will be no different.

Shane Ferguson’s injury is a huge boost for us, but Smith and Barlaser in particular will be well up for this like they were last year in the drubbing down there, what with both being huge Newcastle fans. That, coupled with their strengths out wide, means we have to be wary of the threat they pose.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Luke O’Nien go out to left wing back again to help deal with their wide players and with the aerial bombardment we’ll likely receive, and I expect Jay Matete will come back into the midfield to not only cover for that but also give us legs in the centre, which we’ll need against Rathbone and Barlaser in particular.

It can’t be all about countering against their strengths though. Rotherham play a high line and that should suit our front two of Broadhead and Stewart, so keeping Embleton in the centre playing those balls over the top is a tactic I’d expect will work on our big pitch.

Ultimately, we need to win this game to give ourselves the best possible chance of earning a top six spot, especially as it’s a game in hand over some of the other teams.

So yes, take Rotherham very seriously, but also let’s not forget that we are the form team in the division with strikers finding the back of the net on a regular basis.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

We were about as pragmatic as we possibly could be last week at Plymouth, and while we turned on the style against Cambridge, I’d expected Alex Neil to return to his more industrious ways to graft out another much-needed result.

That doesn’t mean we won’t play attractive football, but hopefully, it’s a best of both worlds approach.

We now have a much more rugged defence with Wright and Batth likely to be joined by Callum Doyle making a return to the starting XI.

It will be interesting to see what happens in midfield. Elliot Embleton excelled in a deep-lying role on Saturday, but will Neil move him further forward against Rotherham with Evans and O’Nien providing that extra layer of protection?

I’m not sure I’d change much, but we need to retain our tougher, hard-to-beat mentality while ensuring we are efficient in possession without the risk of overplaying and giving the ball away cheaply.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images
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