Sunderland can make it five wins in six games when they host Watford this evening. Sunderland’s bid to return to the Premier League is going swimmingly well in the early stages.
The Black Cats have won four of their past five games, and their most recent punishment – a 3-0 success over Sheffield Wednesday – has moved them into fourth place after nine games.
According to Sofascore, Tony Mowbray’s side dominated at Hillsborough, recording 68% possession, six shots on target, an xG of 1.57, and accurately completing 91% of their passes.
If Sunderland can replicate their performance against Watford this evening, the visitors might be in big trouble.
The Hornets have conceded three goals in each of their previous two games, with defeats to Leeds United and Middlesbrough highlighting defensive flaws that players like Jack Clarke and Mason Burstow will attempt to exploit.
Mowbray has had to cope with a frightening pile up of injury issues ahead of this Championship meeting, with a few important players missing.
What’s the most recent Sunderland team news?
During his pre-match press conference, the veteran manager revealed that an undisclosed key player’s injury could cause the team sheet to look drastically different this evening.
Sunderland were originally expecting to be without Timothee Pembele, Dennis Cirkin, Aji Alese, Cory Evans, Pierre Ekwah, and Bradley Dack, but the injury list appears to have grown even longer.
Refusing to reveal who had sustained an injury following Wednesday’s win, Mowbray stated that the player would be a major loss going into their encounter against Watford.
“Without giving too much away, we had to make some tactical changes today,” he explained.
“You’ll see the team when it comes out, but there’s a big difference with the injury that’s been picked up.”
Whoever is missing will require someone to step up and be counted in their absence, much like Alex Pritchard has more than replaced the injured Bradley Dack with a streak of outstanding performances.
This season, how has Alex Pritchard performed?
A lot can change in a short period of time in football and Pritchard’s renewed importance to the first team emphasises that mantra. In the summer, he was deemed surplus to requires after Sunderland didn’t offer him a new contract and Mowbray was under the elusion that he was going to depart.
He said: “I don’t want to get too prescriptive about it, but it looks like Pritch is going to leave the football club. We have to move past that, we have to move on – that’s football.”
With Mowbray consigned to losing his attacking midfielder, the 30-year-old was expected to find another club but a deal to lure him away from Wearside never materialised, and the former Tottenham man remained at the club after the deadline.
Having come off the bench in each of the first six Championship matches, Pritchard would get his chance to shine after Pierre Ekwah hobbled off with an injury against Queens Park Rangers, and it’s an opportunity that the Englishman has welcomed with open arms.
Since making his first start of the campaign against Blackburn, the £7k per-week wizard – previously dubbed by Christian Eriksen as “skilful” and “one for the future” – has chalked up two assists in his last three appearances.
Pritchard has been the centre of Sunderland’s chance generation, making 1.4 critical passes per game, achieving an 83% pass completion, creating four huge chances, and having an anticipated assist (xA) of 2.17, according to SofaScore.
When Dack and Ekwah were injured, Sunderland fans feared the worst, but Pritchard’s redemption arc in the starting XI is a timely reminder of how rapidly things can change in football.