Sunderland vs Coventry predictions: Black Cats to make winning return

Tom McGarry
LiveScore
Alex Neil can take Sunderland to new heights this season
Alex Neil can take Sunderland to new heights this season

Sunderland will begin life back in the second tier of English football when they welcome Coventry to the Stadium of Light on Sunday. 

The Black Cats ended their four-year stay in League One by beating Wycombe in last season's play-off final and there appears to be plenty of optimism surrounding Alex Neil's side heading into the new campaign. 

Coventry also seem to be a team on the up, as they look to improve on last season's 12th-place finish in the Championship — their best league placing for 16 years. 

However, the Sky Blues are facing a battle to keep hold of talisman Callum O'Hare, who has been heavily linked with a move to Burnley after being directly involved in 13 goals for Coventry last season. 

Team news

Sunderland have been busy in the transfer market over the summer and the likes of Daniel Ballard and Ellis Simms could be handed their competitive debuts — the latter having arrived on loan from Everton earlier this week. 

Midfielder Carl Winchester returned from illness to feature in Sunderland's final pre-season match against Hartlepool on Monday and could play some part, although winger Leon Dajaku is struggling with a calf issue. 

Coventry boss Mark Robins is expected to stick with O'Hare despite the ongoing transfer speculation, while forward Martyn Waghorn is in line to feature against his former club after missing the recent friendly win over Portsmouth as a precaution. 

Summer signing Kasey Palmer is unlikely to be involved as he continues his recovery from a knock which forced him to also miss the Pompey clash, while fellow new recruit Tayo Adaramola is expected to be among the substitutes following his recent arrival on loan from Crystal Palace. 

The stats

Sunderland have flourished since Neil's appointment as head coach in February, as they have lost just one of their 18 competitive matches with the Scot in charge. 

However, the Black Cats have endured a more testing pre-season, winning just once in five matches, a run that includes defeats to lower league duo Bradford and Accrington Stanley. 

Coventry's pre-season has been much more impressive as they have won all six of their friendly matches, although it is worth noting they ended last term by winning just two of their final 10 league fixtures. 

This will be the first meeting between the two sides in the Championship since February 2007 when Sunderland claimed a 2-0 victory on home soil, thanks to goals from Dwight Yorke and Carlos Edwards. 

That being said, Coventry are unbeaten in the four clashes since then, including claiming a memorable 5-4 victory at the Stadium of Light when the two teams met in League One in April 2019. 

Prediction

Ross Stewart scored 26 goals last season in League One
Ross Stewart scored 26 goals last season in League One

Despite enduring a difficult pre-season, Sunderland should still be riding on a high following their promotion, while they are unbeaten in nine competitive fixtures on home soil, winning seven of those games. 

Neil has built much of his success on keeping things tight at the back, as Sunderland have conceded just 11 goals in 18 matches under the 41-year-old, which makes a home win to nil appear appealing. 

Coventry failed to score in two of their final four matches last season and if O'Hare is distracted by transfer speculation, then that could limit their creativity in the final third. 

Sunderland certainly look well placed to claim their first victory in the Championship since May 2018 and it would be no surprise to see Ross Stewart get on the scoresheet — he was the joint-leading scorer in League One last season with 26 goals.

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