What can we expect to happen as Sunderland look to secure a third home win of the season and maintain their unbeaten record in front of the red and white faithful?
So what's been happening?
Oxford ride into town off the back of two wins, one in l the League against Burton and the other in the Carabao Cup when they were victorious against Newport. The U's will look to put their poor early season form to bed by continuing their recent success against high flying Sunderland.
SAFC are hoping to make the Stadium of Light a fortress once again. Led by the unwavering tactical nous of Jack Ross, the lads are high on confidence after continuing their winning ways with an ugly victory against a quite frankly enormous Wimbledon side. Here the Black Cats are presented with a rare opportunity to give the fans a third home win of the season. Not since the heady days of Steve Bruce being in the SoL hot seat have Sunderland started a season so well.
Ross is feeling confident that his Sunderland side can maintain their unbeaten streak at the Stadium of Light. He was also quick to stress the importance of home form if his side are going to win the league.
“Our home form is going to play a key role this season if we want to be successful."
“Having that 100% record at home is something we want to continue, there is no reason why we can’t. Saturday poses another challenge, but we have a squad of players who are in a really good place at the minute and believe they can keep this run going.”
U's boss Karl Robinson was less optimistic than Ross. He has openly stated that his players will have to kick their performances up a few gears if they are to have any hope of coming away from Wearside with any points.
“We’re going to have to be eights and nines out of ten if we’re going to win,”
“They’re the most resourced team in the league and they should walk it."
Long term absentees Duncan Watmore and Aidan McGeady continue their road to recovery along with Jerome Sinclair. Glenn Loovens and Adam Matthews are doubts after picking up knocks recently. But the good news is that Ross should welcome new signings Charlie Wyke and Tom Flanagan for selection.
Oxford have their own selection headaches, especially after Jamie Hanson's appeal against a red card he picked up at Newport was turned down. Samir Carruthers, Simon Eastwood and Rob Hall are again unavailable to Robinson while Tony McMahon is also a doubt.
What might happen?
The lads could well line up in a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation at the start. This would allow Ross to keep the same spine which has brought success recently. It also gives him the chance to rest Max Power and give Dylan McGeouch a start on what would be his home debut. Oxford have lined up in the same formation every game they have played since the season kicked off.
Similar to Ross, Robinson also has a philosophy of playing out from the back and keeping the ball on the grass. Expect a clash of similar styles but, with the difference in quality of personnel available to pull on the red and white shirt you wouldn't expect Oxford to beat the Black Cats at their own game. Sunderland will look to keep those little passing triangles going and will be patient as they look to feed Josh Maja and open Oxford up at any opportunity.
The added quality the likes of Cattermole, McGeouch or Power provide in midfield allows Ross's passing game to thrive. Remember, the ball will always move quicker than any player can and the lads should use this to pass the U's off the park.
Oxford have looked shaky at the back so far this season, conceding more goals than any other team by allowing the ball to cross the line a whopping 14 times. If Gooch, Maguire and Maja continue their excellent attacking fluidity they should prove too much for a stuttering Oxford back four.
Nullifying Gavin Whyte and Marcus Browne would go a long way to stopping any goal threat that Oxford would pose. Ricky Holmes also looks to have some goals in him at this level but has been struggling with injury.
Due to the difference in quality and the form which the home side come into this game off the back of, I'm going to plump for an ambitious 4-0 win. If only to invite some criticism on my own prediction skills, no offence to any Oxford fans reading this.
Ha'way the Lads!