This year’s traditional Boxing Day fixture will take place in the North East at the Stadium of Light with Keith Hill’s Wanderers preparing to take on Sunderland, now of course managed by former Bolton boss Phil Parkinson.
Without a win since a 1-0 success against Southend United at the beginning of November, the Black Cats are currently 13th in Sky Bet League One – six points outside the play-off places.
Expectations are always high amongst the Sunderland faithful and Parkinson and co will be looking to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
Sunderland weren’t in action last weekend, but their last encounter was a 1-1 draw against fellow promotion hopefuls Blackpool. Charlie Wyke scored the equaliser for the hosts after Simon Grayson’s side took the lead early on through Matty Virtue-Thick.
Wanderers picked up all three points in the previous fixture, beating Southend United by three goals to two at the University of Bolton Stadium with Joe Dodoo, Luke Murphy and Daryl Murphy on the scoresheet.
Wanderers were without mainstay Adam Chicksen for the Southend victory, the Zimbabwe international defender missed a chunk of the week’s training due to illness and Keith Hill opted to play Josh Earl on the left-hand side of defence instead.
Chicksen will likely be fit and ready to play at Sunderland if selected. There was a place on the bench last time out for Liam Edwards who had been absent since August through injury, but there hasn’t yet been a sign of Will Buckley and Harry Brockbank in the matchday squad since they picked up their injuries.
Sunderland midfielder George Dobson misses out through suspension after he was sent off for a second bookable offence in their last outing against Blackpool.
Head to Head
Wanderers were denied three points in the last meeting between the two teams at the University of Bolton Stadium in September. After Jack Hobbs had headed Keith Hill’s side into the lead early in the first half, an Aiden McGeady penalty salvaged a point at the death.
Thursday’s meeting will be the 148th since the very first back in 1890. Sunderland have the upper hand in the head-to-head record with 62 wins to Bolton’s 49.
Our last trip to the Stadium of Light saw six goals shared in a 3-3 draw. Former Newcastle United man Sammy Ameobi gave Wanderers the lead before Lewis Grabban’s equaliser on the stroke of half time.
Grabban put the hosts ahead in the second half before Gary Madine’s quick response and then Karl Henry’s goal turned the game on its head again. Paddy McNair levelled for the Black Cats with both teams having to settle for a point apiece.
As usual, match updates will be provided by the club’s official twitter account (@OfficialBWFC). We will keep you up to date with the action to ensure you don’t miss a kick – delivering a match report shortly after the final whistle with post-match reaction from manager, Keith Hill.
Live commentary will also be available by the iFollow BWFC channel (subscribe via the website), with the BBC Radio Manchester team providing the coverage.
Wanderers come into the game as underdogs at the time of writing, according to Sky Bet, with an away win priced at 5/1.
Sunderland are the strong favourites to take the three points at 1/2, with a draw priced at 3/1.
Man in the Middle – Ross Joyce
Saturday’s game will be officiated by Ross Joyce, with Barry Gordon, Simon Clayton and Fourth Official Paul Brown completing the referee line-up.
Joyce has officiated 18 matches so far this season, with his latest being a 2-2 Sky Bet League Two draw between Scunthorpe United and Colchester United a couple of weeks ago.
So far this season he has handed out 76 yellow cards and three red cards.
Currently in his twelfth season as a referee, the last Wanderers fixture he refereed was the 4-2 win at Oxford United in March 2017.
Key Man for The Shrimpers – Charlie Wyke
A player admired by Phil Parkinson during his time as manager at Bolton, Wyke never became a Bolton player under his management but the two now find themselves working together at Sunderland.
Acquired from Bradford City in August 2018, the 27 year-old centre forward scored 5 goals in 30 appearances during a season where he often struggled with injury.
Scorer of the equaliser the last time out against Blackpool, the former Middlesbrough and Carlisle frontman will be looking to build going forward and add significantly to his current tally of three goals.