These two just can’t seem to avoid one another recently and they meet again here in the first leg of the League One play-off semi final as they bid for a return to greener pastures.
Sunderland head in to this game in pretty rotten form, especially by their standards. The Black Cats have won just one of their last six matches and rapidly lost their chance to take an automatic promotion place rather than the somewhat ‘lottery’ of the play-offs. These two meet yet again in a big clash just over a month since they faced off at Wembley when Portsmouth prevailed as the winners after a penalty shootout.
An immediate return to The Championship was right at the top of Sunderland’s agenda for this season and I fully expect that failure to do so would cause quite an outrage from fans. There are some huge clubs now in League One but Sunderland in particular will view themselves as far too big to be there.
Another club who probably feels like that is Portsmouth; it doesn’t seem all that long ago that they were plying their trade in The Premier League and lifting the FA Cup but some terrible mismanagement led them all the way down to League Two but they’ve been on the up ever since and they’ll have every bit of confidence that they can end Sunderland’s hopes of bouncing straight back to the division above. Pompey have faired much better in the form charts having lost just once in their last eight games and their draw at The Stadium Of Light was a much better result for them than it was for the hosts and they’ll take huge confidence from said result as well as their heroics at Wembley. Pompey ended up finishing three points above Sunderland come the end of the regular season but they’re the slight outsiders here at a price of 3.2. Win or draw at 1.53 could hold some real value if you fancy the visitors. They’ll also take encouragement from having the best away record in League One having taken an impressive 45 points from their 23 matches on the road which is more than they took at Fratton Park,
Sunderland will be delighted to have their star man Aiden McGeady back after the winger was rested on the final day of the season to help him recover from a foot injury. The Irishman scored in the Wembley tie against Portsmouth and is priced at 3.75 anytime to repeat the feat here.
Portsmouth are in great shape for this tie and Kenny Jackett has a fully fit side to call upon. Brett Pitman looks likely to lead the line with Jamal Lowe playing in the number 10 role. Lowe was the standout player at Wembley, a sublime individual performance earnt him some extra plaudits on top of a terrific season already, he’s hit 15 goals for Pompey and looks like a great pick for a goal at 3.75 anytime and 6.5 first.
This one is exceptionally hard to call; these two have been neck and neck for the majority of the season and I expect this game to be very similar. Both have seen on average over 2.5 goals in their games this season, Sunderland at 2.76 and Portsmouth at 2.91. Over 2.5 is priced at 2.25 with the bookies expecting this to be a tight game but I think there’s definite potential for that to come in. I think both teams to score at 1.95 also looks excellent. Sunderland will want to make home advantage count and Pompey will want to take something back to Fratton Park to build on. Sunderland have lost just one home game all season but they’ve had more home draws than any other side in League One.
Both teams to score @ 1.95
Portsmouth win or draw @ 1.53
Jamal Lowe to score anytime @ 3.75