Alex Neil’s Sunderland side host Shrewsbury at the Stadium of Light on Friday evening, with a win against the Shrews being imperative if the Black Cats wish to keep their League One play-off dreams alive over the remaining games of the season.
The table is incredibly tight around the play-off places, with Sunderland, Wycombe Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday all currently on 73 points. And, with only seven games left to seal their spot in the top six, the Mackems know they cannot afford any slips ups in the run-in.
Shrewsbury have lost and drawn their last two games, whilst Alex Neil’s side remain unbeaten in their last eight league fixtures, and with their opponents safe from relegation in 16th, Sunderland must capitalise on the fact that Steve Cotterill’s outfit have nothing left to play for this season.
With that being said, selecting a team that will prove most effective in their final push for promotion must be a priority for Neil, with one player who has undoubtedly proven he can deliver when needed being Elliot Embleton.
Indeed, Embleton has been the linchpin in Sunderland’s climb back into the top six, bagging two late goal contributions that have won his team their last two games, providing an assist for Nathan Broadhead’s last-minute winner against Gillingham and bagging an 89th-minute goal against play-off challengers Oxford United last weekend.
The 23-year-old was previously hailed a “nightmare” by former Black Cats midfielder Max Power, who was full of praise for his former teammate an episode of the SAFC Unfiltered podcast:
“He’s someone who sees that pass that other players don’t. He’s a nightmare to play against in training because he can go either way, shoot off both feet.”
The midfielder has contributed six goals and eight assists over his 40 appearances in all competitions this season, while also having been a consistent attacking threat over his 33 League One outings – being successful with 56% of his attempted dribbles, creating four big chances and making an average of 1.2 key passes per game.
Embleton competes for a spot in the team with Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, however, he has surely proven that he should be one of the first names on the team sheet against Shrewsbury, owing to his contributions of late.
Ultimately, Sunderland must continue their recent run of form and keep the momentum going in order to clear the last hurdle in the push for promotion, and unleashing Embleton in the line-up could reward the Black Cats with a third winning contribution in a row from the 23-year-old sensation.