Scout report: Why Sunderland must learn from their reverse fixture and be encouraged ahead of Rochdale clash

Rochdale have picked up eight points out of a possible 12 in their last four league games.
Rochdale have picked up eight points out of a possible 12 in their last four league games.
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Sunderland travel to the Spotland Stadium this weekend as they look to close in on second place - but what can they expect from Rochdale?

Rochdale have been in good form since Brian Barry-Murphy took charge. The Dale have picked up eight points from a possible 12.

The Black Cats eased past Saturday’s opponents earlier in the season after a comfortable 4-1 victory for Jack Ross’ men.

We take a deeper look at Sunderland’s upcoming opponents this weekend as the Wearsiders look to bridge the gap on Barnsley.

What system will Rochdale play?

Barry-Murphy has opted to go with a 3-4-3 formation in the last couple of weeks and it’s proving effective as his side have picked up four points from a possible six.

When Rochdale travelled to Wearside in September, they played with a 4-3-3 system and ultimately it didn’t work as the Dale were 3-0 down by half time.

Rochdale have conceded the most goals in League One this season, 77, and also have the worst goal difference in the division with -29.

Who are Rochdale’s key players?

Ian Henderson has netted 18 goals in all competitions this season so the striker is certainly one to watch this weekend.

Aaron Wilbraham scored a brace when he last played at the Spotland Stadium and he is likely to start up front alongside Henderson on Saturday.

Rochdale winger Matt Done was a goalscorer at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season so the Sunderland defence will have to keep a close eye on the 30-year-old.

Who is Rochdale’s manager and what can we expect from them?

After six years in charge of Rochdale, Keith Hill was sacked in March and replaced by caretaker boss Barry-Murphy.

Barry-Murphy has made an excellent start as manager of the League One side and has won two and drawn two in his opening four matches.

Rochdale are in good form, so we can expect them to go into this match with confidence and momentum ahead of their battle with the Black Cats.

What form have Rochdale been in?

Despite falling into the relegation places, Rochdale have picked up eight points from a possible 12.

The Dale were pegged back last weekend against Gillingham as Henderson’s 18th goal of the season proved not enough to earn all three points as the match ended 1-1.

Barry-Murphy’s side secured a crucial 3-1 victory in their last fixture at the Spotland Stadium. However, Peterborough, Barnsley and Portsmouth have all won away at Rochdale, so there is no room for error for Sunderland.

Last six league matches: DWWWLL