Sunderland welcome Norwich City to the Stadium of Light in a stand-out Championship clash.
Victory could see Sunderland climb to the summit for at least a few hours depending on victory margin, whereas Norwich can leapfrog their hosts with a win and go as high as second for a few hours at minimum.
Sunderland manager, Alex Neil could hand new signing – Jewison Bennette his first start for the club.
Niall Huggins (heel), Leon Dajaku (thigh), Daniel Ballard (foot) and Carl Winchester (back) are ruled out.
Norwich have no fresh injury concerns to report after Tuesday’s Carabao Cup exit against Bournemouth on penalties, following a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road.
Sam Byram (fitness) and Andrew Omobamidele (ankle) however are doubts as manager – Dean Smith wants to manage their fitness load after recent injury issues.
Jacob Sorensen, Sam McCallum (both foot), Dimitris Giannoulis (ankle), Jonathan Rowe (shin) and Isaac Hayden (knee) remain ruled out.
- Sunderland have lost just one of four previous second-tier meetings against Norwich since the league was rebranded as ‘Championship’ (W2, D1, L1).
- Norwich have won just one of their last eight visits to Sunderland in all competitions (W1, D3, L4).
- Sunderland have kept just one clean sheet in their last four home meetings against Norwich (D3, L1) – having drawn 0-0 in December 2013 in Premier League.
- Ross Stewart has been involved in five of Sunderland’s eight goals this season – having scored three goals and provided two assists.
- Two of Josh Sargent’s three goals this season for Norwich so far have been assisted by Daniel Sinani.
Having survived a difficult test away to Stoke last weekend with clinical attacking on top of excellent defending, Sunderland now need to replicate that performance and continue to deliver up front because Norwich won’t be easy pushovers now they’re finding their feet.
Dean Smith’s Canaries meanwhile will be slightly disappointed to have exited the Carabao Cup in dramatic fashion in midweek, but can take heart from their improved performances including excellent counter-attacking in last weekend’s win over Millwall with great pressing on and off the ball.
Norwich though haven’t gone well in their last eight visits to Sunderland so a win here will certainly go a long way for their morale, yet I expect Sunderland to have the fresher legs following a week to prepare for this game and be up for the fight – even amidst rumours over Alex Neil’s future as manager.
In fact, I can see both teams scoring but in terms of a winner, it is difficult to call so I am going for a draw.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Norwich
Result: Sunderland 0-1 Norwich