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With title ambitions at the beginning of the campaign, it has not always been a comfortable ride for Lee Johnson this season, with his side currently just outside the automatic spaces.

Currently boasting four games in hand over their direct rivals, Wigan Athletic remain in pole position to finish on top of the tree, should they be able to get points on the board.

That leaves three teams fighting it out for one extra automatic spot, with Sunderland set to go head-to-head with current leaders Wycombe Wanderers and Rotherham United over the next couple of months.

Should the Black Cats get across the line, it will represent a return to the second tier for the first time since dropping out in 2017-18.

Two failed playoff campaigns have plagued their three season stay in League One so far, with Johnson no doubt desperate to ensure that his side avoid the lottery of a top-six finish.

In recent weeks, their form has not suggested they will be able to jump into the top two, as a stuttering Sunderland are winless so far this calendar year.

A dramatic 3-3 draw away to Wycombe two weeks ago has been followed up by a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Lincoln City, before a frustrating stalemate with Accrington Stanley last time out.

It means that Sunderland will begin the weekend three matches without a win, a run that Portsmouth will be keen to stretch out to four.


Similarly to Saturday’s opponents, Portsmouth have dipped in and out of form this season, with the Hampshire outfit currently boasting only two wins from their previous eight matches.

An ever-growing five points from sixth-placed Plymouth Argyle, should Danny Cowley want to remain in charge of Portsmouth, he can ill-afford his side to slip up any more.

Looking to back up their 4-0 battering of Sunderland from earlier in the campaign, Portsmouth will be eyeing up their first league double over the Black Cats since the 2008-09 season when the pair were both Premier League clubs.

For Sunderland, this fixture has not always been profitable in recent years, and boss Johnson will be hoping to oversee just the Black Cats’ second victory in five attempts over Portsmouth

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