What a tie we have on our hands as Sunderland make the long journey down to Fratton Park on the south coast for this League One playoff semi-final second leg. Sunderland hold a marginal lead after a 1-0 victory over Pompey on Saturday evening, but this tie is far from over and Kenny Jackett’s men will be going hammer and tong come Thursday evening.
Their clash on Saturday at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, gave off the impression that neither team wanted to push too much and be caught on the counter. It was Chris Maguire’s sublime volley which separated the two sides, with Portsmouth not coming out of their shell properly until Alim Ozturk was sent off after a dubious tackle.
This will be the fifth time that the sides have met this season, with Pompey winning two, with one draw and the Sunderland victory last time out. The one which hurts the most for Sunderland is definitely the Checkatrade trophy penalty shootout loss at Wembley. However, I’m sure those memories would be forgotten if Sunderland were to seal promotion back to the Championship at Wembley.
I’m expecting another tight match, following the same agenda as their four previous encounters this season. With Sunderland holding a slender lead going into this second leg, we at least know that Pompey have to get a win if they are to progress to Wembley.
Sunderland have travelled well this season, with only Pompey sitting above them in the Away League One table this season. One of Sunderland’s best traits this season has been their defensive strength away from home, they’ll be hoping for more of the same as they look to shut Pompey out.
Kenny Jackett still has a few injury worries, as key players Lee Brown and Brett Pitman are still on the sidelines. The pair missed the first leg and aren’t expected to make a return come Thursday. Pompey will also be without Dion Donohue, Brandon Haunstrup and Jack Whatmough, as all three have been confirmed unavailable
Sunderland will be buoyed massively by the fact that their appeal against Alim Ozturk’s red card on Saturday, has been successful and the centre half will be available for the second leg on Thursday. Star player Aiden McGeady withdrew from the starting line up with a recurring foot injury in the warm up on Saturday, he’s yet to be assessed and it’s touch and go whether he plays come Thursday. Sunderland could however welcome back Duncan Watmore into their match day squad, the forward hasn’t played since March, but could play some part.
With so much at stake for these two big clubs in English football, neither will want to show their hand too much and I think it will be a cagey affair. With Portsmouth obviously needing to find a winner here to progress, I think they could be open to the counter attack and with Sunderland’s potent attack, I’m confident they’ll find the scoresheet. You can get Both Teams to Score (2.00), in my opinion this price looks rather high to me, both teams have been more than amongst the goals this season. Prior to this weekend’s clash – Sunderland’s last four and Portsmouth’s last EIGHT had Both Teams to Score – Yes and I think that continues come Thursday.
From a goalscorer perspective, I think Jamal Lowe (3.10) and Will Grigg (3.60) – to score anytime, both look decent prices. My only worry is whether or not Charlie Wyke gets the nod again for Sunderland as he did on the weekend.
Both Teams to Score – Yes @ 2.00
Jamal Lowe – Anytime Scorer @ 3.10
Outsider – Sunderland to Win & BTTS @ 6.50