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Monday night’s defeat against Charlton Athletic all but ruled Portsmouth out of the running, with the Hampshire-based side having won none of their last five matches across all competitions.
Similarly, Pompey’s league form has been just as bad, with Danny Cowley‘s side having last won a League One game back in mid-December – a run of five outings in the league without taking three points.
Having gone unbeaten in the previous 10 league outings prior to that, Portsmouth have gone from dreaming of a playoff push in the second half of the campaign to being forced to look over their shoulders and fend off their mid-table competitors.
The same cannot be said for Oxford, who will be confident of securing back-to-back top-six finishes, having been unsuccessful in the playoffs last time out.
Losers to eventual winners Blackpool in last season’s playoff semi-final, Oxford have once again continued to surpass expectations under manager Karl Robinson.
The only thing that has stopped the U’s from competing for an automatic berth this season has been their inconsistent form, with Oxford having only recorded consecutive league wins twice since the middle of October.
After a well-earned point against promotion contenders Wigan Athletic in midweek, Robinson’s men will be eyeing up their first victory against Portsmouth since January 2019 this weekend.
For the visitors, their record against Oxford might read six games unbeaten as of now, yet Portsmouth have taken three points from just one of those clashes.
While he may have shipped two on Monday evening, Manchester City loanee Gavin Bazunu once again impressed between the sticks.
The Republic of Ireland international will retain his position in goal, with a back three of Hayden Carter, Sean Raggett and Clark Robertson just in front.
At the opposite end of the field, Marcus Harness will be tasked with providing creativity for strike duo Tyler Walker and George Hirst.
Netting the opener against Wigan in midweek, Matt Taylor took his tally for the season to 14, with the forward set to be joined by Billy Bodin and Mark Sykes in attack.
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Herbie Kane will sit in a midfield three, along with Marcus McGuane and Cameron Brannagan, while Luke McNally and Elliott Moore will partner each other at the back.
Oxford United possible starting lineup:
Stevens; Long, Moore, McNally, Seddon; Kane, Brannagan, McGuane; Bodin, Taylor, Sykes
Portsmouth possible starting lineup:
Bazunu; Carter, Raggett, Robertson; Romeo, Morrell, Williams, Hume; Harness, Walker, Hirst