The League One season comes to a conclusion on Sunday, when Charlton Athletic and Sunderland clash in the play-off final. The Black Cats are looking to bounce back into the Championship at the first time of asking after their relegation from the Championship last season.
Jack Ross and his Sunderland side have already been at Wembley once before this season, with the Black Cats having lost to Portsmouth on penalties in the Checkatrade Trophy final in March.
It is Lee Bowyer’s Charlton side who head into the game in slightly better form. The Addicks have won four of their last six games, with their last defeat coming in the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Doncaster. They won the tie on aggregate, of course. Sunderland have just one win to their credit in their last six games, having beaten Portsmouth 1-0 in the first leg of the semi-final. That solitary goal proved to be enough to take the Black Cats to Wembley.
Charlton Athletic vs Sunderland Prediction: Addicks 1-2 Black Cats
This game is very hard to predict, with neither side having been in scintillating form heading into the game. Charlton may well have the edge, when it comes to the better recent performances, but we have a feeling that the occasion will go the way of Sunderland. Athletic have not managed to beat the Black Cats in their two previous encounters this season, something which may affect how things turn out on Sunday. Charlton have managed to score in both of their games against Sunderland this season, and we suspect they will repeat this feat on Sunday, only to lose the match.
Our recommended tip: Sunderland, both score
Our featured tip for this game comes from Betway, who are offering odds of 4/1 on Sunderland to win the game and both teams to score. Goals have been scored in both of the regular league encounters between the teams in 2018/19, which leads us to suspect that there will be goals scored by both sides on Sunday. We expect Sunderland to just edge the game, though. This bet offers good value in terms of the odds on offer, and also gives you a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to the final scoreline.
This match is a repeat of the second tier play-off final of 1998, when the Addicks and the Black Cats clashed in an epic encounter at Wembley. That match went to extra time and finished 4-4 before Charlton went on to win 7-6 on penalties. Sunday’s game is not just a repeat of that match, but also the first time that two teams have met for the second time in a play-off final.
Earlier this season, the teams met at the Stadium of Light on the opening day of the League One campaign in August. Sunderland won 2-1 that day. The return match was at The Valley in January, and ended 1-1.
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Players to watch: Lyle Taylor & Aiden McGeady
Charlton striker Lyle Taylor has played 44 games this season in all competitions, a sign of real resilience and superb fitness. He has scored 25 goals in those 44 games, with 22 of those goals coming in League One. He has also weighed in with 10 assists in the league this season. If Sunderland want to make sure that they return to the Championship at the first time of asking they will need to keep Taylor quiet this weekend.
Sunderland winger Aiden McGeady has missed the Black Cats’ last four games, including the play-off semi-final, with a foot injury he picked up in April. He is in line for a return to action at Wembley, though. The Scottish-born Republic of Ireland international has plenty of experience of big occasions from his Celtic days, and Mackems will be looking for him to provide a moment of magic if things get tight and tense on Sunday.