Sunderland travel down south this afternoon to take on Oxford United in a crucial clash to try and bolster their play-off chances in League One, with three points today potentially taking Alex Neil’s men into the top six if Wycombe were to slip up.
With Oxford only one point behind the Wearsiders in eighth, the game will be equally important for both teams, and Sunderland will need to ensure that they can capitalise on their better form compared to the U’s, who have lost their last two games.
In terms of injury news, the Black Cats remain unchanged from last week, with the long-term absences of Aiden McGeady (knee), Jordan Willis (ruptured patella) and Niall Huggins (stressy fracture) all leaving them out of contention.
With that in mind, this is how Football FanCast anticipate Sunderland to line up against Oxford United this afternoon…
Predicted XI: Patterson; Winchester, Wright, Batth, Cirkin; Neil, Evans; Roberts, Pritchard, Broadhead; Stewart
We expect to see two changes to the team which won against Gillingham last weekend, and a 4-2-3-1 formation deployed by 40-year-old Neil.
The first change we predict to see in the Sunderland starting XI today is Daniel Neil coming back into the side to replace Luke O’Nien in midfield alongside Corry Evans, who will maintain his place in the line-up.
Neil has made 35 appearances this season, scoring three goals and contributing seven assists so far; and with the Black Cats desperately needing to take all the points from today’s match, having the attacking output of the 20-year-old back in the team would surely give them the best opportunity to achieve that.
Will Sunderland beat Oxford United today?
The 24 year old forward, who was hailed as “fantastic” by former Sunderland manager Lee Johnson, scored the last-minute winner against Gillingham after coming on for Alex Pritchard last weekend and Neil could give Broadhead, who has scored nine goals so far this season, the deserved nod in the starting XI today.
Sunderland are in a good position to gain a spot for potential promotion to the Championship this year, and with only six games left in the current campaign, there is little room for error in the race to secure a play-off position.