Injury-hit Charlton could be outclassed at Sunderland
Jack Ross has invested well at Stadium of Light
Sky Bet League One
Sky Sports Football, 12.30pm Saturday
Strength in numbers should ensure Sunderland cope with their early-season injury problems better than Charlton can handle theirs, and the Black Cats can get off to a winning start on their third-tier return.
New Sunderland boss Jack Ross has signed 11 players since replacing Chris Coleman following the club’s fall from the Sky Bet Championship, a huge help given the knocks which will rule out £1m frontman Charlie Wyke and a handful of other first-teamers.
However, Ross is sitting pretty compared to Charlton gaffer Lee Bowyer, who confesses he can only fill his bench with academy players this weekend.
It’s the start of the season, the sun is out and expectations are high, but these are anxious times for these fallen giants.
Sunderland go into battle naturally unsure about what to expect, although with 22,000 season tickets sold and a crowd of around 30,000 expected, Wearsiders are focused on a fast start and promotion.
Wary of what happened to last season’s relegated giants and pre-season jollies Blackburn, who lost their first two league matches, the Mackems could have done without losing the services of Tom Flanagan, Dylan McGeouch and Aiden McGeady, though Ross knew Wyke was an absentee when they signed him.
But Ross has invested well and merging the newcomers with a handful of younger players who were generally exempt from criticism last term – among them new skipper George Honeyman and exciting flyer Lynden Gooch – makes Sunderland look seriously strong at this level.
Charlton will themselves be stronger when they can call upon the likes of Ben Reeves, Tariq Fosu and Jake Forster-Caskey but they have real deficiencies in terms of depth.
The Addicks improved under Bowyer, who is still only the caretaker manager while the unpopular Roland Duchatelet tries to sell the club, before signing off 2017-18 with a trio of 1-0 defeats, the last two of which were against Shrewsbury in the playoffs.
Their last nine matches produced just 11 goals – all 11 games copped for under 2.5 backers – so Lyle Taylor has been snared from Wimbledon in a bid to add some firepower, although he picked up a calf strain last week.
Charlton, this weekend at least, will be largely unrecognisable from last season. It’s quite likely that only three of the 11 who began the game at Shrewsbury in May will start at the Stadium of Light with rookie keeper Dillon Phillips, on the bench all last term, set for a baptism of fire.
Neither side looks packed with goals – Ross admits that Jerome Sinclair, signed from Watford, is undercooked – so it could be a low-scorer.
1pt Evs bet365
New £1m striker Charlie Wyke is out with a knee injury. Defender Tom Flanagan is also injured, joining Aidan McGeady, Reece James and Duncan Watmore on the sidelines. Scotland international Dylan McGeouch is a doubt.
Jake Forster-Caskey is the latest addition to an injury list which features Anfernee Dijksteel, Ben Reeves, Tariq Fosu, Billy Clarke and Igor Vetokele. New recruit Lyle Taylor (calf) is a doubt.
Seven of Charlton’s last eight competitive matches have ended in 1-0 scorelines.
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