The EFL League One playoffs get underway this Saturday, 11 May 2019, between Portsmouth F.C. and The Black Cats of Sunderland A.F.C.. It will be the first of a two-legged tie, and will take place at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, England. The second leg will take place at Fratton Park in Portsmouth, England on Thursday, 16 May 2019. It will be the 4th and 5th meetings of the season between the two former Premier League clubs. The loser of the tie between these two massive clubs will be guaranteed to spend another season in League One.
Sunderland and Portsmouth would have been considered favorites for the automatic promotion spots coming into the year. Those however, have already gone to Luton Town F.C. and Barnsley F.C., and these two are left to fight with each other for a chance to play for the final promotion place. While 88 point for Pompey (Portsmouth) and 85 points for The Black Cats sound like respectable totals. The 4th and 5th place finishes in the table are disappointment considering the budget and pedigree of the clubs compared to their League One brethren.
Neither one of these teams has any trouble scoring goals. Portsmouth finished the year with 83 goals, which was good for second in the league. The Black Cats had 80 goals, which was tied for third. Winger Jamal Lowe leads the way for Portsmouth, having scored 15 goals, and added another 8 assists on the year for Pompey. Veteran midfielder Gareth Evans, (10 goals, 6 assists) is a fun player to watch, and always seems to be around the ball. Sunderland shipped off their leading goal scorer Josh Maja (who had 15 goals in just 23 games) to France back in February. Of the players who are still on the roster, Aiden McGeady leads the way with 11 goals. California native, and United States International, Lyndon Gooch has added 5 goals, and a team leading 7 assists for Sunderland.
Portsmouth F.C. vs Sunderland F.C. Vital Information
This matches can be viewed on iFollow in the United States, and on iFollow in the UK. Saturday's game starts at 2:30 PM ET/7:30 PM GMT. Next Thursday's game starts at 2:45 PM ET/7:45 PM GMT.
Referee assignments are To Be Determined.
This will be the 108th and 109th meetings all time between these two distant rivals. In the previous 107 meetings, Portsmouth has won 34 times, Sunderland has won 37, and there have been 36 draws. It was a draw in the most recent of those, 1-1, over at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, just two weeks ago on 27 April 2019. It should be noted the Sunderland has not one a head to head match between the two since 2008, when both clubs were in the Premier League.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
The travel distance from Sunderland to Portsmouth is 338 miles, making this one of the longest travel distance in League One. This is roughly a 8 hour bus ride. (Distances are city to city per Google Maps)
Both of these teams stumbled a bit at the finish line. Portsmouth was winless in their last 3 games (1 loss, 2 draws). Sunderland was winless over their last 4 games (2 losses, 2 draws).
These two teams also met in the finals of the Checktrade Trophy, which was eventually went all the way to penalties before being won by Portsmouth. They also drew in their last match, and Sunderland just edged out Pompey on goal differential +33 to +32. In other words, you are not going to see two teams that are more evenly matched.
Although these two clubs have met over a hundred times in their history, prior to this league season, they had not met since a Premier League match on 9 February 2010. It would be 3603 days until they met again on, 22 December 2018. When they meet for the second leg of this tie on 16 May 2019, it will be the fourth time the two have squared off since 31 March 2019. A period of just 47 days.
If Sunderland misses getting promoted this season, then they will need look no further than their league high 19 draws. An astonishing total when you consider that is 41% of the 46 total matches that they played this year. In fact, their 5 losses were the fewest of any team in League One this season, still they finished 5th due to their penchant for getting only a single point.
Portsmouth F.C. vs Sunderland A.F.C. Prediction
When these two teams meet this season, if nothing else, it seems guaranteed to be a close match-up. Draws seem to be in the air as well, and it's not surprising as these two clubs combined for a whopping 32 draws between them this season. I see both of these being back and forth matches, with several lead changes, neither team giving an inch, and both teams finding a way to get goals, or play defense when needed. Either team can win this thing, and the only outcome that would be shocking is if it isn't close at the end. When the dust settles, as with the Checkatrade outcome, I feel like Portsmouth is a team with more depth, veteran leadership, and sense of direction. Especially with The Black Cats moving their leading scorer at midseason, I just feel like they are a team still in an adjustment period. Sunderland has made great strides in their first year under new ownership, but at the end of the day, I think another year in League One is in the cards. However, look for them to roll through the league next season.
Prediction – Leg 1: Sunderland 2 Portsmouth 2
Leg 2: Portsmouth 2 (4-3 PKs) Sunderland 2
Aggregate: Portsmouth 4(4-3PKs)-4