Meet Sunderland: A side on a good run, packing a troublesome trio

Conor Chaplin is fouled at Sunderland

Conor Chaplin and Ipswich Town were up ended at Sunderland on November 20. They meet again at Portman Road today - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town host Sunderland in front of a packed Portman Road this afternoon (3pm). Mark Heath takes a look at the Black Cats...

Last time out

It feels like a lifetime ago, given everything that's happened at Town since, but it's worth remembering these two sides met less than a month ago.

Town lost that clash 2-0 at the Stadium of Light, a result that started the decline under Paul Cook, but in truth they didn't deserve to lose.

Bersant Celina forces save with a first time shot during the first half at The Stadium of Light agai

Bersant Celina spurned a trio of chances in defeat at Sunderland last time out - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Bersant Celina had a trio of superb chances in the first half and the Blues were generally the better side, but came home pointless.

That win ended a poor run for Sunderland, who'd lost three in a row going into it, and started Town's current slide.

Since we last met

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Sunderland haven't lost in the league since that perhaps fortunate victory over the Blues, winning three and drawing two of their five matches since.

Included in that good run was a 5-0 home thumping of Morecambe, and a 2-1 win over former league leaders Plymouth Argyle last time out.

Lee Johnson's young side have found their feet and built confidence after that brief stumble, occasionally using wing backs and switching formations to great effect.

They've now climbed to third in the table, level on points with second-placed Wigan, and have a 14-point cushion over the Blues, despite having played a game less.

Sunderland manager Lee Johnson before the Carabao Cup Fourth Round match at the Kiyan Prince Foundat

Sunderland boss Lee Johnson was born and brought up in Suffolk - Credit: PA

Johnson on Town

Sunderland's boss actually hails from Suffolk, having been born and brought up in Newmarket. He said he 'loved' his upbringing there and still speaks to friends from his Suffolk school days.

He holds Town in high regard too, and is expecting a tough test today.

"I think they have really good players," he said.

"You saw their really good sort of form six or seven games ago and I think they will recapture that, especially with that new manager bounce.

"I think as Sunderland we have to deal with that as teams often raise their game against use.

"We can also use that because when teams are trying to raise their game in front of a crowd they can also make mistakes."

He added: "Obviously the best judgement for the future is often the past, which is why we do so much analysis.

"What we’ll have to focus on is the individual players’ strengths and weaknesses rather than so much the team unity. They have changed their shape two or three times since Paul Cook left.

"I think the capacity is 28,000 there and it’s expected to sell-out but we are used to big games."

Sunderland have signed Alex Pritchard on a free transfer from Huddersfield. Photo: Sunderland AFC

Alex Pritchard has come into form for Sunderland recently - Credit: Sunderland AFC

A triumvirate of trouble

Sunderland will probably play a 3-4-2-1 formation today, and the trio likely to play at the top of the pitch have been key to their recent revival. 

Striker Ross Stewart leads the Sunderland scoring charts with 11 goals in his 24 games so far, and will be a man Town will have to contain.

But it's the duo behind him - Alex Pritchard and Nathan Broadhead - who are really on fire.

Former Norwich City star Pritchard has stepped up in recent weeks, bagging two goals and two assists in his last five league games. He's laid on six goals in total this season, second only to Dan Neil in the Sunderland ranks.

And on-loan Everton forward Broadhead - a Welsh U21 international - has also come into his own after battling hamstring issues earlier in the year.

He's scored four in his last four games - including a brace in that thumping of Morecambe - and has really linked up well with Stewart as Sunderland have gone on their run.

In total, he's bagged six goals in 15 appearances so far.

Town's back four, who have looked very shaky at times this season, will have their hands full with this trio today.

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