Sunderland poor at home but buoyed by weekend win
Sheffield United need to respond to poor form
From Stumble-Land to Sunday Wonderland
After three defeats in a row, it felt like Sunderland's chances of a play-off tilt were on the wane, but an impressive - and fully deserved - 1-0 win at Norwich City has them dreaming again, with a five point gap to the Top 6.
How can you lose 5-1 at home to 14th place Stoke, and then beat Norwich at Carrow Road?
Well, Tony Mowbray admitted that it was the tactics of Stoke that highlighted Sunderland's weaknesses - they were vulnerable on the counter attack as they committed bodies forward in attack, and they conceded from set pieces.
Against Norwich, they were able to play a front foot approach, knowing that Norwich were unlikely to go long and cause them problems on that front.
The atmosphere at the Stadium of Light will be electric for a big game like this - but Sunderland's players haven't always responded to the support of their home fans this season, their 6W 5D 6L record only 17th best in the league.
It's a young Sunderland team, with only three players over 23 starting on Sunday. With injuries all over the park, the bench on Sunday was filled with inexperienced youngsters.
There's a chance this game causes them problems in terms of fitness and robustness, and also in terms of style. Because of this, It's difficult to predict their performance level from game to game, and off-putting from a punting perspective.
Blades' Promotion Far From Automatic
With pressure being applied by Middlesbrough, Sheffield United need to grind their way to automatic promotion.
They have lost four of their six league games in the last month, and their last five games in all competitions have finished 1-0 - including victory over Tottenham - these are tight, low margin affairs, and Sheffield United are winning and losing them in almost equal measure.
There's no doubt that they seem a shadow of the team that they were late last year and are looking a little rusty going forward, but they are still a strong side.
They have experienced leaders in the team, such as Oliver Norwood and John Egan, and they are more likely to respond strongly to a defeat like Saturday's at Luton, than crumble. Compared to Sunderland, they have many rotation options.
In terms of tactics, Sheffield United play more of a style that could trouble Sunderland like Stoke did - they look after the ball well and their patterns of play allow them to build through thirds and put pressure on with lots of crosses and combinations in wide areas.
However, they can also attack directly with balls into Oli McBurnie, and star player Iliman Ndiaye is most dangerous on the break. They have also scored the second most goals from set piece situations this season.
For a punting angle, we are focusing on that set piece threat. Only Millwall have scored more goals than Blades from set pieces, while Sunderland have faced the fourth most shots.
Enter Blades captain John Egan.
The Irishman has had 14 more shots (46) than any other Championship centre-back this season. His 13 shots on target have yielded two goals already, while his total xG of 4.0 shows he's getting even more chances than his goal return suggests.
He has registered a shot in over 2/3rds of his games this season, which is what you want for a CB goalscorer bet.
The cherry on top is that Egan spent five years as a Sunderland player between 16-21, without ever making a single appearance.
Surely it would be sweet for him to score a goal at the Stadium of Light as captain of a team potentially heading to the Premier League...