Can Lee Johnson’s side keep building on the momentum we already have, or will Blackpool find some much needed confidence with a win over their promotion rivals from the season before?
The story so far
Sunderland have enjoyed a terrific start to the season. Coming back from a goal down against a spirited Latics side on the opening day of the campaign was made all the sweeter by the fact that Wigan have signed a number of ex Wearside players this summer.
The script would usually read that Sunderland’s ex players had came back to haunt them as Cats fans have seen time and again in years gone by. Not that Saturday afternoon. Max Power had barely finished celebrating in front of the home fans before Ross Stewart had won a penalty at the other end which was cooly converted by Aidan McGeady.
Positive results followed in the form of a win against Port Vale in the opening round of this cup and further League wins over MK Dons and Wimbledon.
We of course succumbed to the absolute shithousery of our bogey team Burton, but most would agree that was a blip on what has been an almighty curve of progress and positivity that Sunderland find themselves on during these early days.
A slight worry for fans and without doubt Lee Johnson as well will be the number of chances that the Lads are failing to convert.
The stats against Burton are perfect examples of this point with Sunderland managing 20 shots, 7 of which were on target and none resulted in a goal.
Burton mustered a single shot on target which was enough to seal all 3 points for the Brewers on a frustrating evening at the Pirelli Stadium.
Wimbledon attempted to follow the Burton blue print, sitting deep and defending in numbers with a very physical press. It looked to be another afternoon to forget until Car Winchester teed one up from outside the area and smashed it home, securing the win for Sunderland.
Yes it took a canny deflection, but if players aren’t backing themselves to have a go then they won’t score. End of.
It must be said that Sunderland are playing some wonderful football to get into the opposition half, but are guilty of playing a bit too slow in the final third. We give teams too much time to reset their defences and block in numbers, it’s damn hard to score when there’s 9 or 10 defenders in the opposition box.
The Tangerines haven’t exactly enjoyed a buoyant start to their season in the Championship and are yet to win a game in their League. Somewhat surprising after they assassinated their competition in League One last season to win promotion through the play-offs.
They opened their season with a 1-1 draw against Lee Johnson’s former side Bristol City. Blackpool needed a 90+3 minute strike from new signing Shayne Lavery to rescue a point from the Robins.
Neil Critchley’s side then stormed to a 3-0 victory against Middlesborough in the EFL Cup which rightly garnered some much needed positivity and confidence which many on the West Coast would have hoped they carried into their next League game.
Unfortunately for Blackpool fans their side were defeated 2-0 and 1-0 by Cardiff and Coventry respectively, most of the momentum gained from the spanking of Middlesborough evaporating over a 3 day period.
However, Blackpool are not a side you want to write off as evidenced by their weekend game against Bournemouth.
The Cherries scored twice in the first 20 minutes and it appeared that Blackpool was in for one long afternoon against Scott Parker’s new side.
Centre back James Husband grabbed one back for the away side before Jerry Yates converted a penalty to ensure at least a point was heading back to Bloomfield Road.
Still, Blackpool find themselves languishing in the relegation zone and many of their faithful will be hoping that a decent win tonight can help spark their season into life.
What can we expect?
It’s difficult to predict much about this fixture. Sunderland fans can expect changes to the starting line up with Johnson already admitting that loanee Frederik Alves will be starting alongside club captain Bailey Wright as both need competitive minutes.
Recent arrival Niall Huggins has yet to play for the club and Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead could do with some more time to prove what he is capable of. Tonight could be an opportunity for both to put pressure on the current starters in their respective positions.
We could expect Cirkin to get more minutes at left back and Dan Neil to continue his outstanding form in midfield with maybe Alex Pritchard playing in the 10 role.
With Cory Evans injured and Luke O’Nien struggling with his shoulder following a second dislocation, a rejigged midfield is almost a certainty.
Blackpool are a little thin on the ground in terms of strength in depth and currently have a number of injuries to contend with.
Midfielder Grant Ward was stretchered off against Bournemouth while Demetri Mitchell, Matty Virtue and Kevin Stewart all find themselves in the treatment room.
It will be an interesting clash of styles tonight with Sunderland’s passing going up against Blackpool’s very well drilled and aggressive press.
The Black Cats will look to exploit space using clever passing and movement with the hope that the striker can get into dangerous positions and potentially punish the opposition.
If Sunderland can work some of their players in behind the Blackpool defence scoring chances will come. Whether or not our attacking players dispatch those chances is another matter altogether.
Blackpool will look to win the ball high up the pitch and put some pressure on Sunderland’s fullbacks. Causing chaos on the edge of the box for one of their finishers to have a crack is key to the Tangerine’s game plan and in Jerry Yates and Shayne Lavery they have two quick, skilful and most importantly intelligent players who will take any scoring opportunity that are presented with.
Former Everton fullback Luke Garbutt and centre back James Husband also pop up with goals proving Neil Critchley’s side are a real handful from front to back.
I’m plumping for a 2-1 loss unfortunately against a Blackpool side that are desperate for wins and confidence. We struggled to break them down in both games last season and if we don’t use our passing ability and opt to play direct we will struggle. A much changed Sunderland side also won’t help proceedings but it’ll be good to see some new arrivals and fringe players getting some solid minutes against a very decent outfit at Bloomfield Road.
Ha’Way the Lads.