Sunderland will host Shrewsbury at the Stadium of Light in a Good Friday clash that could put Sunderland in a very comfortable position to secure a play-off spot keeping their promotion dreams alive.
The Black Cats are currently sixth in the League One table matching Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe Wanderers for points, so a win today is important to keep their hopes of promotion to the Championship in their hands.
Although their opponents have nothing to play for as they are comfortably 16th, 11 points clear of relegation, they will not be an easy team to beat as they currently have the third best defensive record in the entire league conceding just 40 goals in 42 games, so Sunderland will need to deploy their best attack to break down Shrewsbury.
In terms of team and injury news, Alex Neil has confirmed that Leon Dajaku is still not available for selection after falling ill, however Alex Pritchard could be in contention to start as the Sunderland manager gave an update on his fitness in his pre-match press conference.
Neil told the press;
“Alex is making good progress.”
Long term injuries remain unchanged with an update on Aidan McGeady’s chances of playing again for the side this season, the Black Cats boss said on Thursday;
“I’m hopeful that in the next week, he might start joining in training again, but it’ll be really reliant on how he goes over these next few steps in terms of what he looks like over the next couple of days.”
With that being said, this is how Football Fancast expects Sunderland to line-up this afternoon…
We expect to see just one change to the team that won against Oxford United to keep the victorious momentum in the team against Shrewsbury, with the same 3-5-2 formation.
We predict that Elliot Embleton will start in the team after his hugely important impact on Sunderland’s last two games, with the player being the linchpin in securing a playoff spot late in the season following a late assist against Gillingham that secured the three points and an 89th minute winning goal against Oxford last weekend.
The 23 year old, who was hailed “excellent” by the Mackems manager, has definitely proved he deserves a spot in the starting line up and Neil’s selection of the midfielder could prove a huge boost if he can make a third consecutive goal contribution in today’s game.
To make way for Embleton’s start, we expect to see Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead dropped from the central attacking role, but he could easily make a late appearance in the team if Sunderland find themselves chasing a goal in the latter stages of the clash.
The £2.9k-p/w gem, who was hailed “fantastic” by Lee Johnson, has scored nine goals in 20 appearances this season proving to be a consistent attacking threat in the Sunderland forward line, despite suffering a hamstring injury that has limited his ability to make a larger impact this season.
Neil will be hoping to continue his impressive record in League One going eight games unbeaten in his 10 games in charge at the club so far, and promotion to this season would be a massive achievement for the Scottish manager in his short term so far.