Sunderland's crucial run of fixtures and how they compare to Wigan, Rotherham, Plymouth and League One rivals

Sunderland will face what feels like an important run of games when they return to action after the international break.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:30 pm

The Black Cats have lost their last three League One matches and have fallen down the table ahead of next weekend’s clash with promotion rivals Ipswich.

With games in hand on the sides above them, a few wins could quickly revive some much-needed confidence for Lee Johnson’s side, yet more poor results would raise serious concerns.

We've looked at the next five fixtures for the top six teams in League One and assessed the challenges they may pose:

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Sunderland (5th)

Given recent setbacks, there’s no getting away from the magnitude of the Ipswich game next weekend.

After a slow start, Paul Cook’s side have won four of their last six league matches and are now just four points off the play-off places.

Back-to-back away games are never easy but Sunderland will be expected to beat a struggling Shrewsbury side before heading to Cambridge seven days later.

Sunderland midfielder Luke O’Nien vs Wigan.

The latter is likely to be a tougher game than what people may think. Mark Bonner’s side have already taken points off Plymouth, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday this season following promotion from League Two.

Sunderland will have a match in the Papa John’s Trophy after that, before a home game against recently-promoted Morecambe – which looks like a kind fixture on paper.

Johnson will hope his side have regained some momentum ahead of a meeting with promotion rivals Plymouth at the Stadium of Light next month.

Sunderland’s next five league fixtures:

- Nov 20 Ipswich (H)

- Nov 23 Shrewsbury (A)

- Nov 27 Cambridge (A)

- Dec 7 Morecambe (H)

- Dec 11 Plymouth (H)

Wigan (1st)

Leam Richardson’s team moved back to the top of the table last weekend, but will face four sides currently in the top half of the division when they return to action.

After a home meeting with in-form Oxford, Wigan have two away games, tricky ones at that – against Cambridge and Plymouth. Still, Wigan have won six of their seven league matches on the road this season.

The Latics then face a kinder home match against Shrewsbury and will also play an improving Ipswich side in the coming weeks.

Wigan’s next five league fixtures:

- Nov 20 Oxford (H)

- Nov 23 Cambridge (A)

- Nov 27 Plymouth (A)

- Dec 7 Shrewsbury (H)

- Dec 11 Ipswich (H)

Plymouth (2nd)

Unlike Sunderland and Wigan, Plymouth have a fixture this weekend and could move back to the top of the table with a win over Accrington Stanley.

If Ryan Lowe’s side can pick up positive results at Accrington and Charlton, they will have plenty of confidence heading into back-to-back home games against promotion rivals Wycombe and Wigan. The Pilgrims are the only unbeaten side at home in League One this campaign.

It doesn’t get any easier for Plymouth after that as they’ll face MK Dons and Sunderland away from Home Park. It’ll be a real test of their promotion credentials.

Plymouth’s next five league fixtures:

- Nov 13 Accrington Stanley (A)

- Nov 20 Charlton (A)

- Nov 23 Wycombe (H)

- Nov 27 Wigan (H)

- Dec 7 MK Dons (A)

Rotherham (3rd)

Four of Rotherham’s next five league opponents are currently in the top half of the table, but given the Millers’ impressive form, you wouldn’t bet against them.

A home game with Cambridge after the international break will be followed by two tricky away fixtures against Oxford and Ipswich – who have both found form in recent weeks.

If they come through those fixtures with a decent points return, Paul Warne’s side will be expected to continue their promotion push when they host Gillingham and Burton in quick succession.

Rotherham’s next five fixtures:

- Nov 20 Cambridge (H)

- Nov 23 Ipswich (A)

- Nov 27 Oxford (A)

- Dec 7 Gillingham (H)

- Dec 11 Burton (H)

Wycombe (4th)

Gareth Ainsworth’s side also have a game this weekend when they’ll host a Portsmouth side who have been struggling but, as we’ve seen, have the ability to cause an upset.

Wycombe will feel they can take six points from their next two league matches with both to be played at Adams Park, where they have won six of their seven league matches this campaign.

After hosting Portsmouth and Bolton, The Chairboys face two difficult away games against high-flying Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday.

Wycombe will then play three of their next four league games at home against sides they will be expected to beat.

Wycombe’s next five league fixtures:

- Nov 13 Portsmouth (H)

- Nov 20 Bolton (H)

- Nov 23 Plymouth (A)

- Nov 27 Sheffield Wednesday (A)

- Dec 7 Burton (H)

Oxford (6th)

Karl Robinson’s side are the division’s form team after winning five of their last six games in League One.

Still, the U’s boss has admitted his side’s next game at Ipswich will be one of the toughest away games of the season so far.

It doesn’t get much easier for Oxford after that, as they’ll then face a trip to promotion rivals Wigan, and also have a home meeting with Rotherham to come later this month.

Oxford’s home form has been significantly better than their away results, so they’ll be looking to capitalise when they host an out-of-form Fleetwood side in between the aforementioned fixtures.

Oxford’s next five league games:

- Nov 13 Ipswich (A)

- Nov 20 Wigan (A)

- Nov 23 Fleetwood (H)

- Nov 27 Rotherham (H)

- Dec 7 Doncaster (A)

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