Match Preview: Sunderland v Portsmouth


Two of League One’s promotion favourites go head to head on Saturday, as Sunderland host Portsmouth in an eye-catching encounter at The Stadium of Light (12:30 kick-off.)

Both sides will have high expectations of a successful season and will certainly be hoping for promotion this season and a return to the upper echelons of English football.

Sunderland and Portsmouth both reached, and indeed met in, the League One play-offs last season and will be intent on going one better this time round.

The Black Cats have made a stuttering start to the season, after a 1-1 home draw with Oxford United on the opening day was followed up by a somewhat fortunate draw at Ipswich in a game where they were largely outplayed.

Jack Ross’ side will be hoping to build on the midweek Carabao Cup victory over Accrington and get their campaign up and running.

Portsmouth bounced back from a somewhat unfortunate opening day defeat at Shrewsbury as they saw off Championship side Birmingham City 3-0 in the Carabao Cup at Fratton Park. Kenny Jackett’s side followed that up with a comfortable 2-0 home win against Tranmere last time out.

Team news

Sunderland will still be without the services of defender Glenn Loovens and midfielders Duncan Watmore and Ethan Robson for the visit of the south coast side.

More positive news for Jack Ross is the quick return of left back Denver Hume and midfielder Dylan McGeouch, who are likely to return to the squad after missing out on the midweek trip to Accrington.

Pompey travel north, still without the services of defender Jack Whatmough and midfielders Bryn Morris and Ryan Williams, though the latter two are thought to be close to a return.

Striker Oli Hawkins also misses out after picking up a minor foot knock in training.

Sunderland boss Jack Ross used his pre-match press conference to stress the importance of helping Northern Ireland international striker Will Grigg to rediscover his goalscoring touch, telling the Sunderland Echo:

“I can’t shy away from the fact that – and Will knows this because we speak regularly – in terms of goal return, I haven’t got it from him and he’s not delivered as he would of liked to have done.

We look at what I can do as a manager, what my staff can do and then how Will can affect it. We’ll continue to do that until we get that goal return from him.”

Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett told his clubs website that he and his team were looking forward to the occasion, and a difficult test:

“It will be a great atmosphere on Saturday. They had 33,000 in for the last game, although I don’t know if the early start will affect that.

The stage is a big one and it’s going to be a really tough test, but it’s certainly one that we’re all really relishing.

Both teams have changed quite a lot since last season, and I’m personally looking forward to it.”


The overall head to head record is very tight, with Sunderland winning on 38 occasions compared to Portsmouth’s 34, while 35 clashes have ended level

The teams met five last season, with Pompey winning the league fixture at Fratton Park while the game at The Stadium of Light finished all square.

Kenny Jackett’s side also came out on top in the EFL Trophy final between the two at Wembley, edging a penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw.

Sunderland did however beat Portsmouth 1-0 on aggregate over two legs in the League One play-offs, the 1-0 home victory being the Black Cats only success over Pompey since 2008.

Expected line-ups

Sunderland – McLaughlin; O’Nien, McLaughlin, Willis, Flanagan; Gooch, Power, Leadbitter, McGeady; Maguire, McNulty.

Portsmouth – MacGillivray; Walkes, Downing, Burgess, Brown; Naylor, Close, Harness, Cannon, Curtis; Harrison.


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