The EFL rule change that could benefit Sunderland over Portsmouth in the race for third place
Sunderland and Portsmouth's battle for third place is set to go down to the wire - and a rule change could see the Black Cats benefit.
Just two points separate the sides ahead of the final weekend of the season, with both sides vying for third place and the hypothetically easier play-off draw.
And while Sunderland head to relegation-threatened Southend United - for whom three points will be vital in their battle for survival - Pompey face an Accrington Stanley side with little to play for.
That could have prompted Stanley to rest some players, or name an experimental line-up, but an EFL rule change means that wholesale changes in the dying weeks of the season are now prohibited.
The change was prompted by Huddersfield Town making ten changes for a game with a struggling Birmingham City on 2017 - which the Blues won to secure safety.
READ: Sunderland fans react to the club's £2.5k pre-season in Portugal packagesEFL clubs subsequently voted to add a new rule, which states: "For any league match played on or after the fourth Thursday in March, any team sheet for a league game should include at least 10 outfield players who featured on the team sheet for the league match before."
"In the event any club breaches the threshold, they may be charged with a breach of Regulation 24 and the matter will be referred to a disciplinary commission."
Such a rule could be good news for the Black Cats, as it means that Accrington will have to name a strong side against Portsmouth - which will hopefully aid the Wearsiders' cause in the battle for third place.
The rule, of course, also means that Sunderland can't make too many changes - but Jack Ross has already pledged to name a 'strong' side for the visit to Roots Hall.
Ross said: “There are guidelines now which impact on how many changes you can make and rightly so, you have to be respectful of the whole league.
MORE: The Sunderland players who have played the most minutes this season - ranked in order“They have a lot to play for. I have a squad that has a lot to play for in terms of them wanting to be involved for the play-off games.
“We will have some bumps and bruises from this game, we will make a balanced decision on that.
“It will be as strong a team as possible that we can play.”