EFL Trophy Final Preview Sunderland v Portsmouth: A Final for the Fans
Date: 31st March
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Kick-Off: 14:30 pm BST
Sunderland and Portsmouth are set to do battle this Sunday. They will face each other in the EFL Trophy final in front of a sellout Wembley crowd. This final is expected to be the highest attended EFL Trophy Final of all time. It is also expected to be the highest attended football game in Europe this weekend.
Both teams are pushing for promotion from League One; however, for one day only, they can forget about this and give their all to collect the Football League trophy.
EFL Trophy Final Preview
Both Deserve this day
The Black Cats and Pompey have both had a troubled recent history. Both fell from the Premier League to the lower leagues with little fight or hope. Fans have had to see their club struggle both on and off the pitch. Now, both clubs are beginning to get things right again and this day is for those who have helped turn the club around. More importantly, this is a day for the fans.
Winning Would do Wonders for Momentum
The efforts of both have been to get out of League One and back into the Championship. Both are currently in a battle at the top end of the table. A win here, therefore, would do wonders for confidence and momentum heading into the final games of the season.
Portsmouth, currently in third place, are a point ahead of Sunderland; however, the Black Cats have two games in hand on their opponents. At the end of Saturday’s games, Sunderland will have three games in hand on the top two.
Cattermole’s Spark is Back
This season has been a different one for Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole. Since joining in 2009, the midfielder has mainly experienced relegation battles. This season, he is in a team that are winning more often than not and battling for promotion.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, I feel like I’ve got a little spark back, I’ve enjoyed winning games. I played a lot of years in the Premier League, fighting to win games, you’re fighting for your lives all the time. A lot of the time you won’t enjoy your weekend because you haven’t got the wins because they’re hard to come by in the Premier League.”
Cattermole has been in fine form this season. He has even added goals to his game, enjoying his most successful season by some way in front of goal. Fans can be assured that Cattermole will be doing all he can to end up on the winning side this Sunday.
Naylor Dismisses Big Match-Experience
In the run-up to the final, it has been suggested by Luke O’Nien that Sunderland have an advantage. They have the likes of Aiden McGeady, Will Grigg and Lee Cattermole to name just three. These are players with Champions League, Premier League and international experience. The Black Cats are also used to playing in front of big crowds.
However, Portsmouth midfielder Tom Naylor has dismissed any advantage. “Everyone has got their own opinions and none of our players think that way. It’s one of them quotes where he (O’Nien) is trying to get in the players’ heads. ‘Once we get over that line, all the quotes will go out the window and we want to win.”
Enjoy the Day
Former Portsmouth defender and Sunderland legend Kevin Ball had a message for the players ahead of Sunday. And it was a simple one. Enjoy it. Ball played in two finals for the Black Cats. The 1992 FA Cup and the famous 1998 Championship play-off final. He advises that he remembers little of the cup final due to being so focused on the game. However, in 98, he allowed himself to enjoy the day and he believes that this allowed him to play with a lot more freedom.
Road to the Final
Sunderland have conceded just the one goal so far in the competition. Their road to the final included a 4-0 victory over rivals Newcastle United and a 2-0 victory against Manchester City. In the semi-final, goals from Will Grigg and Lewis Morgan secured a 2-0 victory at Bristol Rovers.
Portsmouth are the leading scorers so far. In total, Pompey have scored 16 goals. Two more than their opponents. A late winner saw Pompey defeat Peterborough in the quarter-final. A much easier time was had in the semi-final where they dispatched Bury 3-0.
Sunderland are hopeful that Will Grigg will be fit. The Northern Ireland striker returned early from international duty with an ankle injury. This game could come too soon for Chris Maguire. The forward is currently recovering from a leg fracture and is unlikely to be involved.
The Black Cats will also be without Duncan Watmore who is out for the season. Adam Matthews is rated as 50/50. Captain George Honeyman is available as his current suspension does not include the EFL Trophy.
Portsmouth forward Ronan Curtis is recovering from a serious finger injury. He is in contention and could feature. Viv Solomon-Otabor and Dion Donohue are nearing a return but won’t be included this week.
Both teams have enjoyed a good run of form of late. Therefore, few changes, unless enforced are expected.
Extra Time to be Played if Needed
Unlike other stages of the competition, extra time will be played in the final. Should the game be level after 90 minutes, a further 30 minutes will be played. Penalties will be used should the teams remain level.