Football specialist James O’Rourke (@JamesOR1) previews Sunderland v Portsmouth and provides us with his best bets for Saturday’s Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg by analysing team news, potential line-ups, head-to-head, key stats and facts and more.

  • 2019 Profit & Loss: +1.46pts

Sunderland v Portsmouth Betting Preview, Odds & Tips

  • Date: 11/05/19
  • Time: 19:30
  • Venue: Stadium of Light
  • Channel: Sky Sports Main Event

It was only as recently as 2010 that this was a Premier League fixture, but some nine years on both Sunderland and Portsmouth are battling it out to win a spot back in Sky Bet Championship for next season. Sunderland are aiming for an instant return after relegation last season, whilst Pompey have been away from the second-tier since 2012. Sunderland were deemed big favourites to win the league in pre-season, but Luton soon stole a march in that particular race. Portsmouth had automatic aspirations of their own as recently as only a few weeks ago, but defeat to Peterborough put an end to those hopes. Whilst Sunderland only lost five league games, they drew 19; more than any other team at this level. That is ultimately why they didn’t finish in the top two, but another possible trip to Wembley potentially awaits.

These two have already appeared at the national stadium this season, when Portsmouth overcome Sunderland on penalties to win the Checkatrade Trophy. Many bookmakers cannot separate Sunderland, Portsmouth and Charlton ahead of the end of season lottery, with only Doncaster seemingly discounted. Having the second leg at home may afford Portsmouth a very slight advantage, especially as they had the best away record in League One. The game has even more added spice as Sunderland have given Portsmouth an away allocation of 2,000 for Saturday’s first leg, despite their recent league meeting seeing 3,222 travel from Hampshire. It is believed that flares which came from the Portsmouth end has led to the reduced number of tickets being offered.

Team News

The fitness of Aiden McGeady is Sunderland’s biggest question mark going into the play-offs. He did not feature in the recent defeat at Southend, with Jack Ross stating that he wanted to give the former Celtic winger as much rest as possible to give him the best possible chance of making the cut versus Portsmouth. It is hoped he will be OK. Ross made four changes for that Southend game, with several nursing knocks following a competitive season. Luke O’Nien, Lewis Morgan and Lee Cattermole will have their fingers crossed of earning a recall into the starting eleven.

Kenny Jackett left top scorer Jamal Lowe out of the Portsmouth squad as they ended the regular season with a home draw to Accrington Stanley. Five changes were made in total, with Nathan Thompson, Brett Pitman, Ronan Curtis and James Vaughan all taken out. Portsmouth don’t seemingly have any significant injury worries prior to the play-offs. Recent performances however will give Jackett a few decisions to make regarding his team selection ahead of Saturday night.

Potential Sunderland Starting XI: McLaughlin, O’Nien, Ozturk, Flanagan, Oviedo, Power, Cattermole, Morgan, Honeyman, Grigg, Wyke.

Potential Portsmouth Starting XI: MacGillivray, Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown, Naylor, Close, Lowe, Pitman, Solomon-Otabor, Hawkins.

Head To Head

  • Portsmouth have very much had the upper hand in the three meetings with Sunderland this season. They won the home match 3-1 just before Christmas, and then secured a 1-1 draw in Wearside only a few weeks ago. Both met in the Checkatrade Trophy Final, with Kenny Jackett’s team winning via penalties in front of a sold out Wembley Stadium.
  • This was a regular Premier League fixture between 2005 and 2010, and it was in that period when Sunderland last inflicted defeat on Portsmouth. This came in January 2008, when a Kieran Richardson double meant The Black Cats won 2-0.

Key Stats & Facts

  • Sunderland ended the regular League One campaign with two defeats in the row, which is the only time they’ve done so in the league this season. Portsmouth are winless in three, but did encounter a spell of eight without a league win in January/February.
  • This play-off tie pits together two of the highest scoring teams in the division. Sunderland netted 80 times, whilst Pompey scored 83; a number which is only bettered by champions Luton (90).
  • Only Coventry emerged from the Stadium of Light this season with three points. The game ended 5-4.
  • A concern for Portsmouth is that they failed to beat any of the other top six teams away from home. However, two of those ended in draws, including their recent meeting at Sunderland last month.
  • Portsmouth were the only team inside the top seven to have defeated Sunderland this season. This came at Fratton Park, when Pompey secured a 3-1 victory in December.

Betting Odds

  • Sunderland 13/10
  • Draw 23/10
  • Portsmouth 21/10

The Verdict

The bookies are finding it extremely hard to call the Sky Bet League One Play-Offs, so unsurprisingly there is very little between Sunderland and Portsmouth in the betting for this first leg battle. Sunderland as the home side will see this as an opponent to try and take a lead to Fratton Park for next week, but that is easier said than done against a Pompey outfit who had the best regular season away record. However, one thing Sunderland are is hard to beat, which might seem strange to say considering they’ve lost their previous two. The reality is we can count on one hand the amount of league matches they’ve lost this season. They’ve drew far too many, and whilst they won’t want a draw here, they wouldn’t necessarily view it as tie over if that was the case. Portsmouth aren’t in the best of form either, so neither enter the play-offs as they’d ideally want. However, form is often secondary in these events, but Sunderland lost only once in the league at home all season.

With neither side playing too well in recent times, it has ultimately led to some inconsistencies within their performances. Both of these teams know where the back of the net is having scored 80+ each, whilst they also held two of the stronger defensive records in the division too. These are two evenly matched sides and it is likely to be the finest of margins to determine who returns to Wembley for the second time this season. Both teams to score has paid off in 72% of Sunderland’s League One matches, whilst the same is said 70% of the time for Portsmouth’s too. BTTS, based on those numbers alone, really should be paying out.

Recommended Bets

  • 1pt – Sunderland Double Chance and Both Teams To Score 8/5 (Bet365)