We are now at the business end of the season. Sunderland are currently third in League One. The Black Cats are desperate to secure promotion come May, ideally via one of the automatic places. They face a struggling Walsall side at the Stadium of Light, therefore, is this the time to make a statement of intent and give warming to those above them?
Sunderland v Walsall Preview
Momentum Important Ahead of Break
The Black Cats are currently on an 18 game unbeaten run; however, too many of these have been drawn. The latest being a 0-0 draw at second-placed Barnsley. This was also the first league game where Sunderland failed to score.
Sunderland have ten games left to secure an automatic promotion place. A good victory at home to Walsall on Saturday would send out a big statement of intent to the rest of the promotion pack.
After Walsall, there is a two and a half week break until the next league game. However, they have a trip to Wembley before then. A win would give that extra confidence and momentum heading into the EFL Cup Final and the rest of the season.
EFL Trophy Fever Hits Wearside
Wembley fever has certainly hit Wearside. After securing their place in the final by defeating Bristol Rovers, a cup final has got everyone talking. It may not be an FA Cup or League Cup final but it is a final. After the disastrous two seasons fans have endured, they are going to enjoy the day.
40,000 of the red and white army will make the journey in the hope of success. A victory here could give the team all the confidence they need heading into the business end of the season.
Winger Duncan Watmore has had a torrid time with injuries of late. He returned just before Christmas after two years out with a knee injury. During the latter stages of last weeks game at Wycombe, Watmore suffered an ankle injury after a bad tackle. It’s an injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season.
Sunderland are currently on an 18 game unbeaten run. Their last defeat came on 22nd December at Portsmouth. However, half of those games have ended in draws. Recently, their last six games have seen four victories, including the EFL cup semi-final.
Walsall are currently in 19th position and looking over their shoulder at the relegation places. A mini-revival has seen the Saddlers record two wins and a draw in their last four games. Their last outing did result in a home defeat to Portsmouth.
The two clubs have already met three times this season. A draw in the league was followed by another draw in the FA Cup. The replay saw Walsall progressing after a 1-0 win.
Sunderland will be without Chris Maguire and Duncan Watmore. Captain George Honeyman serves the second game of his suspension. Tom Flanagan and Reece James have returned to training and could feature.
Walsall boss Dean Keates could give a start to Corey Blackett-Taylor. Signed on loan in January from Aston Villa, Blacket-Taylor has struggled for game time. However, he impressed on Tuesday night after coming on as a substitute against Portsmouth. The 21-year-old caused Pompey problems with his pace and trickery.
Can Sunderland Make Statement of Intent?
On their day, as they have proven, the Black Cats can beat anyone in the division. Walsall are fighting at the wrong end of the table and could prove tough opposition. If Sunderland play how they can then, yes, they can make a huge statement. Not just for the rest who are chasing promotion but also for the upcoming EFL Cup Final.
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