In the space of a month, Sunderland’s promotion hopes have been completely transformed.
The Mackems are unbeaten in their last seven outings, six of which have been wins. Victory over fellow promotion hopefuls Doncaster was the tip of the iceberg for Lee Johnson, but his side can’t afford to let up now.
He has engineered the Black Cats to fourth spot in the League One table but they face Portsmouth on Tuesday evening. This will be one of their toughest trips of the season, especially as they cast half an eye towards the Papa John’s Trophy final on Sunday.
With that fixture in mind, Johnson may choose to rest and rotate a little. Though, given the magnitude of this fixture too, he’d be foolish to go overboard.
As a result, we’re tipping the manager to make three changes to his side on Tuesday evening.
Johnson has had a habit of changing his formation during the course of matches in recent weeks so it’s a little unclear as to how he could line-up.
That being said, we’re entrusting him to go with a four-man backline. The first change of note is that Oliver Younger comes out of the side.
He didn’t really put a foot wrong against Rochdale last weekend but given how tough Pompey could be, we’re tipping Johnson to move Max Power to right-back instead.
What that leaves is a vacant hole in midfield to fill. With Grant Leadbitter out with a dislocated shoulder and Luke O’Nien playing at centre-back, it means Josh Scowen comes in to partner Carl Winchester.
Another change is on the right-hand side. Jordan Jones was influential on Saturday, providing the assist for Charlie Wyke’s goal. However, with not much football under his belt, we think he could be rested for the final on Sunday. As a consequence, Chris Maguire comes into the XI.
He’s had some brilliant cameos in recent weeks, scoring versus Crewe and assisting against Fleetwood and Swindon. Thus, he deserves a chance from the off.
The final change is at left-back where Jake Vokins replaces Callum McFadzean. The latter has been somewhat of a liability this season but will probably make the starting XI in the final due to his recent minutes. With fitness in mind, we don’t think the £2.4k-per-week earner will play on Tuesday.