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Paolo's Preview: Sunderland - "The biggest game since Palace in 2013"

Peterborough United welcome Sunderland AFC in an eagerly-awaited Sky Bet League One fixture on Easter Monday (3pm).
Chris Turner statue
Chris Turner statue at Posh ground

You would have to cast your minds back to Crystal Palace vs Posh in May 2013 to remember a game that could have such large implications for Posh’s future. A win against Sunderland could put Posh in pole position to secure an automatic promotion place, but they will face one of the sides in form at the moment, however.

Darren Ferguson’s men enter the crucial game on the back of a narrow 1-0 victory that saw Jonson Clarke-Harris’ low free-kick seal the three points in the 89th minute, while two late goals helped Sunderland edge out Oxford United at the Stadium of Light.

Now, the two sides will meet at the Weston Homes Stadium in an top of the table clash which will be screened live by Sky Sports. 

Team News and Predicted Line-up

Jack Taylor returned to the matchday squad on Friday and started on the bench after being injured since the beginning of March. The midfielder got some minutes in his legs after coming on in the 62nd minute and could feature against Sunderland today.

Siriki Dembele was another player to return to the squad after missing the 7-0 victory over Accrington Stanley, but similarly to Taylor, he could only start on the bench. The skilful winger made a short cameo in the Fleetwood Town victory, getting just under 30 minutes in his locker.

Predicted Line-up: Pym; Ward, Thompson, Beevers, Kent, Butler; Taylor, Brown, Szmodics; Dembele and Clarke-Harris

Opposition View

Since Lee Johnson was appointed Sunderland AFC manager on December 5, the Black Cats have been in terrific form, losing just twice in 22 games that has leapt them into automatic promotion contention.

Johnson’s men currently sit two points behind Posh with a game-in-hand, while both teams chase down league leaders Hull City. Sunderland also bolstered the second-best away form in League One, losing once in 18 games.

We will also get to witness two of the best finishers in the league this season. Clarke-Harris leads the top scorer charts with 26 goals, with Sunderland’s Charlie Wyke in second on 22 goals.

Speaking to the media in his pre-match interview, Ferguson is not labelling today’s fixture against Sunderland as a promotion-decider, saying that there’s still plenty of games to play. 

“Monday’s game will not define the season, it is a big game, but there is a long way to go in the season and there will be plenty of twists and turns. 

“It is one we can look forward to, it is at home, where we have been good, and it is live on the television. It is an exciting time of the season and I will be telling the players to relish the opportunities. Both Jack and Siriki came through fine on Good Friday.”

Previous Meeting 

A late penalty settled the three points for Sunderland when these two sides met at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season.

Posh had chances early on when Dembele and Clarke-Harris both forced the goalkeeper into a save.

Taylor had a 20-yard effort pushed away by Lee Burge, and Louis Reed hammered the crossbar with a thunderous free-kick.

However, the visitors got some luck in the final ten minutes when Denver Hume fell after being tripped by Taylor, and the referee awarded the penalty. Grant Leadbitter stepped up and calmly slotted away to secure Sunderland three points at home.

That was the Black Cats first victory over Posh in three games, while Ferguson’s men have only managed to beat Sunderland twice in 11 attempts.

Last Five Meetings

Sunderland 1-0 Posh – Sep 2020
Posh 3-0 Sunderland – Aug 2019
Posh 1-1 Sunderland – Apr 2019
Sunderland 2-2 Posh – Oct 2018
Sunderland 2-0 Posh – Sep 2013

PeterboroughMatters Prediction

Two sides fighting for automatic promotion, but today’s fixture could have major implications on either of their title hopes. Posh have a splendid home record this season and will have the advantage on playing on that type of surface for the past few months. However, they will need to keep Aiden McGeady and Wyke both quiet for Sunderland if they have any chance of coming anyway with three points. 

Posh 1-1 Sunderland