Sunderland begin their play-off campaign on Saturday as they host Luton Town at the Stadium of Light in the first leg of their semi-final.
The Black Cats secured their place in the post-season tournament by finishing sixth, thanks to a 3-0 win over Preston North End, on the final day of the Championship campaign.
They will now face off against the Hatters, who finished third in the division, over two legs with the aim of securing a place in the final at Wembley with a chance to win promotion to the Premier League.
Tony Mowbray now has some big selection decisions to make heading into this clash with Rob Edwards’ side to make the most of their home advantage before heading to Kenilworth Road.
Will Alex Pritchard start against Luton?
English attacking midfielder Alex Pritchard must be unleashed from the start tomorrow evening after his superb cameo against Preston on Monday.
The ex-Huddersfield man came on for the second half at Deepdale and caught the eye by winning three of his five duels, completing his only attempted dribble, and scoring the second goal.
Journalist Josh Bunting hailed the attacker as “dynamite” earlier this season and the head coach must plant the £8.5k-per-week maestro down against the Hatters.
Pritchard, who also registered assists against Watford and West Brom in his two previous cameo appearances, has the quality to unlock opposition defences with his passing while also offering a goal threat. This could be key in a play-off environment with only two matches to decide who goes through to the next round.
Amad Diallo ended the regular season with 13 goals and three assists from an attacking midfield position and he could form an exciting link-up with Pritchard in the final third against Luton.
The Englishman recorded four goals and six assists in the Championship this season but also created 11 ‘big chances’ and made 1.6 key passes per game for his teammates, which shows that the magician has the ability to regularly create opportunities for others at the top end of the pitch.
He could provide Amad with the chances the Ivory Coast international needs to punish Luton at the Stadium of Light and throwing Pritchard into the attack alongside the Manchester United loanee, as well as Jack Clarke, would cause more problems for the opposition defence to deal with, which could then prevent their full-backs from going forward as much as they want to as they would have to keep tabs on the English talent.
Therefore, Mowbray must unleash the former Norwich City playmaker from the start on Saturday and hope that the gem can use his magic to secure a first leg victory for the Black Cats.