How Oxford United will line up against Sunderland: Including key players, predicted line-up and latest team news

Sunderland will face play-off rivals Oxford this weekend – but what can the Black Cats expect at the Kassam Stadium?

Saturday, 9th April 2022, 9:00 am

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The U’s are a point behind Sunderland, having played a game more, following back-to-back defeats against Plymouth and Morecambe.

To find out more, we caught up with James Roberts, senior sports reporter at the Oxford Mail, to get the inside track:

It’s back-to-back defeats for Oxford – but how have they been playing?

Oxford United defender Luke McNally.

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JR: “Anyone who watched the games against Plymouth and Morecambe will be baffled at how United came away pointless. They were on top during the first half at Home Park, not an easy feat against a team who are so strong on their own turf. Unfortunately, the U’s missed some big chances – and saw a penalty decision brought back for a controversial offside call – and lost their way a little after the break.

“United dominated against Morecambe, with more than 70 per cent possession and 20 shots, but again couldn’t score the goals to reflect their control. They were unlucky in that home goalkeeper Trevor Carson made two wonder saves, but equally they had to be more ruthless.

"The U’s are the highest scorers in League One so it’s hard to keep them out, but two clean sheets in 18 games shows they can be vulnerable defensively.”

What system are they likely to play?

JR: “Karl Robinson returned to 4-3-3 at Morecambe, a formation that has served United well in their previous runs to the play-offs. It came after several weeks of playing 3-4-1-2, although the effectiveness of that system has been reduced by the injury to striker Sam Baldock, who formed a prolific partnership with Matty Taylor.

“Whether he sticks with 4-3-3 is likely to depend on whether centre back Elliott Moore is fit. The defender has missed the last six weeks with an ankle injury and illness.”

Who are their key players?

JR: “Matty Taylor showed against Morecambe that he only needs one chance to score a goal. The No 9 bagged his 22nd of the season on Tuesday and must stay fit if United are going to finish in the play-off places, especially with Baldock out.

“Cameron Brannagan has been excellent this season, scoring 13 goals from centre midfield and taking games by the scruff of the neck. He missed the last two matches with concussion but should be back on Saturday, which would be a massive boost.

“Luke McNally is in his first season in English football, but looks a really exciting talent.”

What’s the latest team news?

JR: “The returns of Moore and Brannagan would be huge for United. McNally sustained a suspected broken nose at Morecambe but you’d imagine that wouldn’t keep him out.

“Baldock, Marcus Browne, Alex Gorrin and Jamie Hanson are longer-term absentees.

How are supporters feeling ahead of a meeting with Sunderland?

JR: “This game was already big, but it’s even more important after the last two results.

"There was a lot of anger and frustration after Tuesday’s defeat, but with a sell-out crowd expected you can be sure the supporters will give United plenty of backing.”

What’s your predicted line-up?

JR: “4-3-3: Stevens, Williams, McNally, Long, Brown, Brannagan, Kane, Sykes, Whyte, Taylor, Holland.”

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