Nigel Clough's verdict on Sunderland and the League One promotion race

Burton boss Nigel Clough

Nigel Clough expects the current League One top four to be the same at the end of the season.

Clough's Burton sit 17th in the table after a mixed start to the season, eight points behind the Black Cats in fourth.

The Sunderland-born boss believes that the Black Cats can push for the top two but does not expect them to finish any lower than their current spot.

He told Brewers iFollow: "I think a few of the leagues are still a bit topsy-turvy at the moment but I don’t think League One is. I think the top four will be the top four and I think the automatic promotion will come from those.

"Peterborough, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Barnsley, they look the strongest teams. Anybody else past that will be trying to catch up.

"I don’t think anybody doubted that Sunderland would be up there even after the last few seasons," he added.

"They’ve got a strong squad, 30,000 people at home. It takes us ten home games to get that. That gives you an idea of the difference in revenues.

"They’ll certainly fill the away end and they’d probably fill two other stands if we had the capacity," he added.

"Their support has never been in doubt and we’re looking forward to it, it’ll be a good game. It’s two teams who were both in the Championship last season, battling to get back there if we can."

Clough will be able to call upon star striker Liam Boyce on Saturday after his return from international duty with Northern Ireland.

He has a number of injury problems, however, particularly in goal where he could be forced to a hand a full senior debut to 22-year-old Harry Campbell.

Defenders Jake Buxton, Damien McCrory, John Brayford are all struggling with injuries, as is winger David Templeton.

It was Boyce's goal that condemned Sunderland to the drop the last time the two sides met, at the Stadium of Light in April.

The Burton boss spoke of his sadness at the Cats' demise on that day.

"My father [Brian] spoke unbelievably affectionately about Sunderland," he said.

"He was always very disappointed that his career was cut short here.

“Myself and my brother were born here, but we didn’t stay too long, unfortunately.

"But when he talked about the club over the years, it was with genuine affection.

"My brother has memories of it here, our little bungalow on the corner. But I was only two when we left, so I can’t remember much, unfortunately.

"Unless he was going to get the top job here, which was unlikely, he was going to leave. He wanted to be a manager and nothing was going to get in the way of that.

“I think there were a couple of opportunities of him coming back up here, and he talked about that, what a great thing it would be to manage them. He didn’t talk about many other clubs like that.

“He never said ‘I want to manage Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal’ or anything like that –but he talked about this one.

“There have been mistakes over a period of years. I don’t think it’s one season, it’s been building for a few seasons. I don’t think many people could have done much more than Chris [Coleman] did. They just have to start building from here.”

More from Sport