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Sunderland and Portsmouth will both be looking to bounce back to winning ways in the league as they face off at The Stadium of Light.
Sunderland come into this game off the back of three games without a win in the league – what a difference a week or so makes!
They were top of the table following their convincing win over Doncaster Rovers, and they now find themselves in third, admittedly still very much in the race for promotion, but Johnson will know that his side will need to rearguard against similar problems from last term emerging once more.
There were talks this week of Patrick Roberts close to joining the club after a long, drawn-out saga over his move from Troyes, but one bit of business that Johnson did manage to get over the line was the signing of defender Danny Batth from Stoke City. He brings leadership and experience to The Black Cats backline, but it will be interesting to see whether or not he is given a debut from the outset or from the bench here, such has been the form of Flannagan and Doyle.
Correy Evans remains out through a head injury, and factoring in the departure of youngster Oliver Younger, it is an otherwise fresh squad to pick from as they look to bounce back here.
Portsmouth, meanwhile, head to The Stadium of Light having dropped two points during midweek as they saw their push for the play-offs seemingly let out gas, with Pompey now sitting six points outside the play-offs with a game in hand.
New signing Tyler Walker made his debut for the club in a front two, while defender Hayden Carter also got his first runout in a Pompey shirt as he slotted in on the right of a back-three.
Louis Thompson continued his return to the side following an injury lay-off as he started in midfield, but Cowley may be tempted to just shuffle the pack slightly to give them more going forward, with a recall for Ronan Curtis to the eleven perhaps likely.
While they are still well-placed on the periphery of the top six, Danny Cowley will be mindful of the fact that they have now only won once in their last five league games, and so if they are to get back towards the levels required to make that breakthrough into the top six, they will need to improve, and this game provides them with an acid test of their credentials.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Portsmouth
I think that both sides will be eager to respond here after somewhat disappointing draws last time out, and I am going to edge for this one ending up as a draw which on the one hand keeps both sides in the mix for their respective causes, but doesn’t really help those as both would like, with a win for both vital. A 1-1 draw, with Walker getting his first goal for the club since joining and Stewart getting the equaliser for the hosts.
One to Watch: Tyler Walker – Their attacking struggles were highlighted once more during midweek as they were held to a goalless draw by AFC Wimbledon, and Danny Cowley will be hoping that new signing Tyler Walker – who joined on loan from Coventry City – can starting getting amongst the goals for them, starting here with the trip North.
Sunderland: (4-2-3-1) Hoffman; Wright, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin; Embleton, Neil; Dajaku, Pritchard, Gooch; Stewart
Portsmouth: (3-4-1-2) Bazunu; Carter, Raggett, Ogilvie; Romeo, Morrell, Thompson, Brown; Harness; Curtis, Walker
Photo: Portsmouth FC