The Stadium of Light forms the backdrop for an exciting FA Cup round-four replay between Sunderland and Fulham on Wednesday night.
Following three successive FA Cup round-three eliminations, the Championship play-off hopefuls thought they were on the cusp of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 2013/14 when Jack Clarke put them in front at Craven Cottage.
However, Fulham responded through their captain Tom Cairney midway through the second half to secure a replay, giving their fans something to cheer about during a rough patch in the Premier League.
An evenly-contested 1-1 draw in the original leg must have filled Sunderland with the hope that they could set up a mouth-watering round-five tie against bitter rivals Leeds United.
Tony Mowbray’s enthusiasm may’ve been doused after the Black Cats left it late to peg Millwall back and eke out a 1-1 stalemate at The Den last weekend, falling two points behind the play-off line.
Fulham extended their three-game scoring drought in the Premier League with a dull 0-0 draw at Chelsea last weekend, losing further ground on European placings in the process.
Since a 2-1 beating of the Blues in mid-January, Marco Silva’s men have gone winless in four consecutive domestic fixtures (D2, L2), netting only one goal in that stretch.
That’s hardly optimistic as they bid to qualify for the FA Cup round five for the first time since 2016/17.
Sunderland dispatched third-tier Shrewsbury Town in their opening FA Cup round, but they’ll need to beat the odds to make their first round-four appearance since 2014/15 count.
No strangers to thriving in such circumstances, the Black Cats are undefeated in their last five competitive outings as pre-match outsiders (W2, D3).
If that’s not enough to give them confidence, Sunderland have suffered just one defeat in their last five home encounters against Fulham in all competitions (W1, D3).
Fulham eased past second-tier Hull City 2-0 in their FA Cup curtain-raiser, yet round four has proved the end of the road for them in seven of their last eight such ties.
On top of their ’round-four jinx,’ the Cottagers have drawn a blank on their last two domestic road trips (D1, L1) after finding the net in nine successive away fixtures.
But Silva’s men have been a tough nut to crack on their recent travels, keeping a clean sheet in four of their last five competitive games outside Craven Cottage.
While Corry Evans and Ross Stewart are out for the rest of the season, Lynden Gooch and Elliot Embleton remain on the sidelines with minor fitness problems.
Sunderland will rely on Leeds United loanee Joe Gelhardt to deliver the goods in the front third, with Manchester United youngster Amad Diallo expected to provide a helping hand.
As for Fulham, Neeskens Kebano is the only high-profile absentee after Shane Duffy recovered from illness to make the bench at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
Unlike the first leg, Silva will likely give his talismanic striker a starting berth at the expense of Carlos Vinicius as the Cottagers desperately need a win here to steady the ship.
Sunderland vs Fulham Potential Line-ups
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Anthony Patterson; Trai Hume, Daniel Ballard, Danny Batth, Aji Alese; Dan Neil, Edouard Michut; Patrick Roberts, Amad Diallo, Jack Clarke; Joe Gelhardt.
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Kenny Tete, Tosin Adarabioyo, Issa Diop, Layvin Kurzawa; Tom Cairney, Harrison Reed; Bobby Decordova-Reid, Andreas Pereira, Willian; Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Sunderland vs Fulham Prediction
Given Fulham’s growing scoring woes and a recent dip in away form, we can envisage Sunderland’s narrow win.
Sunderland 1-0 Fulham
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