It’s heartbreak or elation for these two League One giants as they face off at Wembley on Sunday. It’s make or break for both, as a loss for either would render this season entirely disappointing.
That statement regarding disappointment probably applies more to Sunderland than to Charlton. The Black Cats were the favourites to make an immediate return to The Championship after keeping hold of a number of key players as well as adding some fresh talent to their ranks. The core of their team has consisted of players who are realistically playing at a level below what they’re capable of, even if you don’t agree with that statement, the squad most certainly has experience. Lee Cattermole and Grant Leadbitter have seen it all during their time with the club. It’s hard to deny that Aiden McGeady belongs at a higher level, the Irishman has been superb this season and has treated us to many of reminders of his talent that made him such hot property when he was younger; sadly however his part in this game looks doubtful having now missed four consecutive matches with a foot injury. Sunderland edge Charlton as the favourites for this game at a price of 2.5 to win in 90 minutes and 1.73 to be promoted.
Charlton have bene on a barn storming run over the last couple of months, winning nine of their last 12 league matches before squeezing past Doncaster in a sensational play-off semi-final where they dragged themselves back from the brink of elimination. By comparison; Sunderland won just four games in that same 12 match period and will rue drawing to many games which ultimately cost them an automatic promotion spot. Lee Bowyer has done a sensational job with Charlton, in particular he turned The Valley in to an absolute fortress. The loss to Doncaster was only the second that the home fans had witnessed all season, but the pressure is on now as they make the short journey to the national stadium.
I expect this game to be very tight, there has been under 2.5 goals in each of the last three meetings between these two. Sunderland saw just one goal across their two legs against Portsmouth too and I think they’ll look to stay solid here and not give Charlton’s danger men much space to exploit. Under 2.5 goals is priced at 1.73 which looks solid, if you want to play safer then under 3.5 is at 1.22. I think Charlton could really cause Sunderland some issues, their price of 1.44 to win or draw looks excellent especially if you fancy this match to go the distance which I think is quite likely.
As mentioned, Sunderland will be without the influential Aiden McGeady. They’ll be looking towards Chris Maguire to open up The Addicks defence, which looked vulnerable against Doncaster; who were very good at getting midfielders between the lines which disrupted Krystian Bielik who is tasked with shielding the defence. Sunderland may look to cause them similar problems through the interchanging of Maguire, Honeyman and Gooch. Maguire is 3.75 to find the net any time, he’s a man for the big occasions who’s very capable of magical moments and we could see another from him in this match.
The shortest odds for a goal is Lyle Taylor. The former Wimbledon striker has been incredible this season. He’s got pace, power, composure and aerial ability. He’s at 2.7 anytime and 5.0 first if you fancy him to cap off a superb season. Lee Bowyer has a fully fit side to pick from for the final but he’s expected to go with a very similar line up to the one that ultimately knocked out Doncaster.
Both these sides are very strong and have shown that throughout the league one campaign. The bookies can barely separate them with just a 0.3 difference in their prices to win in 90 minutes. I think a draw at 3.2 is where the value is as I can see these two cancelling each other out and with so much riding on the game there will of course be an element of caution. If you fancy going a bit further afield for a selection then a correct score line selection could be the way to go, for me I’d be looking at 1-1 at odds of 6.0. Sunderland drew more league matches than any other side in league one and also drew their last match against Portsmouth.
Under 2.5 goals @ 1.73
Draw @ 3.2
Correct score 1-1 @ 6.0
Chris Maguire to score anytime @ 3.75