Simply put, a must win game for Sunderland if they want to avoid playing League One football next season. Bolton currently sit just outside the drop zone in 20th, and the opportunity to get a big three points is definitely there. The home tie of this fixture in late October saw a thrilling 3-3 draw after a goal from Paddy McNair rescued a point for the Black Cats, but it was not enough to save Simon Grayson’s job. A win in this game would put Sunderland within one point of Bolton, and maybe, just maybe give them a fighting chance of survival.
Sunderland haven’t found much luck in recent Wear-Tees derby games and with Boro chasing a playoff place, this could be another tough match. After sacking Gary Monk and replacing him with Tony Pullis many laughed at the decision taken by Steve Gibson and possibly rightly so. Since joining Boro, Pullis side have struggled to find consistent form and have shown they are a very beatable team, suffering defeats from the likes of Aston Villa, Fulham and Cardiff. A good atmosphere at The Stadium of Light for this game could push the Colemans side to all three points against their closest Championship rivals.
Millwall currently sit 14th in the Championship table and are on a good run of form, currently unbeaten in 6 league games. Neil Harris’ side failed to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light back in November, after a 2-2 draw saw the sides share the spoils. A hard working performance at The Den could be enough to steal a win here and isn’t impossible to think about. An away win like this would certainly be a big push in the fight for relegation.
Aston Villa (H)
This game will see former Sunderland manager Steve Bruce return to the Stadium of Light with his Villans side. The days of Bruce are not fondly remembered by many Mackems, but a 10th place finish in the Premier League is all but a distant memory now. This game will also see Sunderland come up against Lewis Grabban, who spent the first half of this season as The Black Cats top goal-scorer. Villa, who are pushing for an automatic promotion spot, currently sit 3rd in the league just two points off second place. Expect this to be a very tough fixture for Coleman’s side, and don’t be surprised if Grabban gets on the score-sheet.