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Charlton Athletic vs Sunderland A.F.C.: League One Playoffs Final Preview

Charlton Athletic vs Sunderland A.F.C.

The match that will decide the last promotion spot into the Championship takes place on the Sunday before Memorial Day in the U.S., so there is no excuse for missing this blockbuster do-or-die game between two former Premiership heavyweights. These two teams, from opposite ends of the land – Charlton Athletic F.C. from South East London, and Sunderland A.F.C. from North East England – are hoping to release themselves from third tier ignominy.

For the winner, a step up the rung towards their former lofty position in England’s top tier. The loser? They will find themselves having to regroup for another grueling season in the EFL League One.

Sunderland have had a well-publicized descent, courtesy of the Netflix drama Sunderland ‘Til I Die. For them to be in this position is one that has the Mackems, wringing their hands with anxiety. This was a team that has fallen two leagues in two seasons and was expected to have already earned one of the automatic promotion places.

Sunderland, falling short of this dominance is a situation that fans of other League One teams have been rather enjoying. For Sunderland fans, this is not just a matter of winning, it’s a matter of personal pride.

Charlton has been living life in the lower leagues for a considerably time longer. Relegated from the Premier League in 2007 and, despite a number of years bouncing between the EFL Championship and League One, the team now finds itself in the third tier of English football for its longest stretch since the mid-70s. This is a stat that the long-suffering fan base is hoping to address, especially after a scintillating run of form in the second half of the season.

Charlton Athletic vs Sunderland A.F.C. Vital Information

Charlton Athletic F.C. logo

By Source, Fair use, Wikipedia

The game can be watched on ESPN Plus in the United States and on SkySports in the UK. Kick off is 10:00AM ET/3:00 PM GMT on Sunday, May 26th, 2019.

Andy Madley will referee the match.

Historically, honors are even between these two teams, having both won three apiece, with four draws in their last 10 matches. The all time record doesn’t reveal much difference either: Sunderland winning 28, Charlton 29, with 21 draws.

5 points not to be overlooked

Sunderland A.F.C. logo

By Source, Fair use, Wikipedia

It’s not just the historical head-to-head that is remarkably even – the UK bookmakers too, are having a hard time splitting the clubs. At the time of writing, latest odds have Charlton at +150, Sunderland +190 and a draw at +220. In other words, not much separates them.

Charlton marched into the playoffs with a canter, undefeated in their last 16 games (winning 10) and earning manager, Lee Bowyer, the Manager of the Month award in April in the process. Last week saw a thriller against fellow playoff hopefuls, Doncaster Rovers F.C.. They barely survived that two-legged encounter in a penalty shootout, which has been roundly viewed as a poor result by pundits.

Lynden Gooch of Sunderland A.F.C

Photo taken by Skippo10 of Lynden Gooch following the Walsall Vs. Sunderland game on November 24 2018 at Bescot Stadium. By Skippo10 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

Head to head this season, Sunderland beat the Addicks 2-1 at the Stadium of Light in August. The Black Cat’s victory was a late, late winner (96th minute) from Lynden Gooch. The return fixture resulted in a 1-1 draw at the Valley. And that might be a telling result, as Sunderland have had a underwhelming 19 draws this season. They have also had the most wins coming from behind in the division (7).

These teams met in the 1998 Division 1 playoff (now the Championship) for promotion into the Premier League — and what a game that was: 4-4 after extra time, with Charlton prevailing 7-6 on penalties, and claiming that last promotion spot. Will history repeat?

Sunderland overcame Portsmouth F.C. in a dour two-game play-off to join the Addicks in the Championship game. It was a reversal of fortune for the Wear-side team, who had an awful run-in before that victory, winning just one of their previous seven matches. A run of form not befitting a team looking to bounce back up to the Championship.

Charlton Athletic vs Sunderland A.F.C. Prediction

Clearly results this season, and historically, put very little between these two battle-hardened teams. But, will history repeat itself?

Let’s scrub out the latest results, because form is temporary. What will decide this tie is who of these two teams, collectively, will maintain cooler heads? Who will execute the game plan for a full 120 (yes, 120) minutes?

For mine, the difference will come down to the weight of expectation. Sure, Charlton would love to climb back up to the Championship after a few dismal years in League One, but who has the most to lose from this game? For me, it’s Sunderland. The weight of a city on its shoulders and the expectant pride that promotion carries with it. Will the team that was meant to walk the league this season hold their nerve?

This writer says yes. For 120 minutes.

The game will come down to penalties and the team that holds their nerve will win.

That team?

Charlton – dashing the hopes and dreams of redemption from the fans of the Black Cats.

Sunderland will learn from this and find their resolve, somewhat belatedly, with a return to the Championship coming in the following season.

Prediction: Charlton 1-1 Sunderland (5-4 penalties)

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