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Preview: Five talking points ahead of Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland

20 February 2018

Wanderers return to home comforts on Tuesday night as they welcome relegation-rivals Sunderland to Macron Stadium.

Looking to maintain their recent home form after two matches on the road last week, highlights five talking points ahead the Whites’ clash with the Black Cats.

1. Home form

Phil Parkinson’s men have put together a great run of results at Macron Stadium in recent months, suffering just one home league defeat since September.

From Wanderers’ 30 points this campaign, 22 have come at home with recent results in front of their home fans starting their charge out of the Sky Bet Championship’s bottom three.

Unbeaten at home in the league since December 16, the Whites will be keen to extend that run with victory over a relegation rival as they look to make home advantage prove decisive again in such a big game.

2. Six-pointer

And what a big game it is. After results at the weekend, just six points separate 18th and bottom in the Championship table, with tonight’s opponents Sunderland level on points with basement club Burton Albion.

The visitors come into Tuesday's game on the back of a 2-0 home defeat against Brentford on Saturday, a result that extended their winless run to four games.

Bolton currently have a two-point buffer over the relegation zone and a four-point advantage over the Black Cats.

A win tonight would put some real daylight between the two clubs and could move Wanderers as high as 18th – five points clear of the drop.

Away from Macron Stadium tonight, Barnsley host Burton Albion meaning the night’s fixtures could have huge implications in the Championship relegation battle.

3. Enforced Changes

After losing Josh Vela to injury at the weekend, and with Mark Little serving the first game of his three-match ban, Parkinson has no choice but to shuffle the pack for the visit of Sunderland.

Jem Karacan replaced Vela at the weekend, making his first appearance since September and the former vice-captain is expected to be awarded a starting berth.

The midfielder is not short of experience having made over 200 club appearances throughout his career and that could be crucial for Wanderers in such a huge game, where composure and a cool-head could make all the difference.

Little’s replacement appears less clear, with formation likely to determine who comes in to the side.

If Parkinson sticks with the back five he has favoured in recent weeks then Filipe Morais is the probable starter at right wingback. But after two away trips reaping no reward, the manager could revert to a back four in the hunt for a valuable three points.

Parkinson is not short of options at right back with Morais, Stephen Darby, Reece Burke and January loan signing Jon Flanagan all in contention.

4. North East Whites

When Sunderland make the trip down the A1 to Macron Stadium, they will be following the footsteps of several Whites players who have done so previously.

Midfielder Will Buckley was a Sunderland player until the summer, having joined them in 2014. After spending the last two of his three years there out on loan, he will be keen to make an impression against his former club, if he can prove his fitness.

Goalkeeper Ben Alnwick also spent time with Sunderland earlier in his career, making 24 appearances during his spell at the Stadium of Light. Now Wanderers’ first-choice between the sticks, the shotstopper will have the chance to showcase his talent against his former employer.

David Wheater, Andrew Taylor and Sammy Ameobi have also spent time in the North East, at Sunderland’s two rivals, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

Taylor and Wheater both came through the ranks on Teeside, with the latter earning the captaincy during his spell, where he amassed over 150 appearances.

Boyhood Newcastle fan Ameobi came all the way through the ranks at St James’ Park. His older brother Shola is affectionately known as the “Mackem Slayer” on Tyneside due to his goal record in the Tyne-Wear derby, so perhaps scoring against Sunderland runs in the Ameobi blood.

After scoring at the Stadium of Light earlier in the campaign, the signs are there, so will Sammy continue that tonight?

5. Free concessionary upgrades

Concessionary season card holders wishing to upgrade their tickets for Wanderers’ Sky Bet Championship clash with Sunderland can do so free of charge.

Available to supporters in possession of under-12, under-18, under-23, over-65 and over-75 season cards, fans are able to upgrade their ticket to a full adult for Tuesday’s clash with the Black Cats.

All adults wishing to use a concessionary season card simply has to present the card at the turnstile to gain entry to the stadium. No paper upgrade ticket will be needed for this fixture.

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