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With only two games left to play in the current League One season, Sunderland could certainly throw the black cat amongst the pigeons on Tuesday night, with their hopes of automatic promotion to the Championship not dead and buried just yet.
After Cambridge lost centre-back Lloyd Jones to an early red card after just 12 minutes on Saturday, Sunderland breezed through with strikes from Ross Stewart (2), Nathan Broadhead, Danny Batth and Elliot Embleton to keep their hopes of a top-two finish alive in emphatic fashion.
Not even their spot in the playoffs is secured just yet, but Sunderland are sitting pretty in fourth and can close the gap to Rotherham and MK Dons to just three points with a win on Tuesday night, with Wigan Athletic out of sight for Alex Neil‘s in-form side.
Now boasting an 11-game unbeaten streak in the third tier and winning each of their last five at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland have set themselves up well for a clash of this importance, but a final-day meeting with lowly Morecambe at least gives them an insurance buffer should they need it.
Sunderland did not come through the win over Cambridge United unscathed, as defender Carl Winchester was only on the pitch for 10 minutes before being taken off with an apparent groin injury.
With Neil also likely to cope without Dennis Cirkin – who could return if the Black Cats successfully advance to the playoffs – 18-year-old Callum Doyle is primed to come into the backline this week.
Alex Pritchard recovered from a calf problem to come on as a substitute in the weekend’s victory, but Leon Dajaku is still sidelined for Neil, who will be loath to alter a winning formula here.
Meanwhile, Rotherham would be without Sunderland loanee Will Grigg for this encounter due to ineligibility, but the striker is out for the season with a hamstring issue alongside Josh Vickers and his broken hand.
Shane Ferguson‘s season is also over after he suffered a foot injury against Burton Albion in midweek, but Arsenal loanee Jordi Osei-Tutu shook off an ankle knock to play the full 90 against Oxford.
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Freddie Ladapo was also absent from the squad at the weekend, with Warne admitting that he did not even know if the striker was at the ground as Michael Smith prepares to lead the line again.
Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Patterson; Doyle, Batth, Wright; Gooch, O’Nien, Evans, Embleton, Roberts; Broadhead, Stewart
Rotherham United possible starting lineup:
Johansson; Wood, Edmonds-Green, Ihiekwe; Harding, Barlaser, Rathbone, Osei-Tutu; Wiles, Ogbene; Smith