Scout report: How an ex-Sunderland transfer target could help Portsmouth tighten their grip on top spot

Sunderland will face a stern test at PortsmouthSunderland will face a stern test at Portsmouth
Sunderland will face a stern test at Portsmouth
Sunderland travel to Portsmouth this weekend in a clash of the promotion favourites - but should Jack Ross expect from Pompey?

The Black Cats' hosts have been in tremendous form this season and sit top of League One having played twice more than the Wearsiders.

And they will be looking to tighten their grip on top spot when the two sides lock horns at Fratton Park in what will be a big test of Sunderland's promotion credentials.

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But what should the visitors expect from Portsmouth? Our scout report gives an insight into how Pompey could line-up:

What system will Portsmouth play?

Portsmouth are likely to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to that which Sunderland have used regularly this season.

With a strong backline and two disciplined holding midfielders, Pompey have a stable defensive base from which to build.

READ: Sunderland fans in Twitter exchange with Newcastle defender over Netflix documentary And that allows their creative attacking players to flourish in the final third, with their interchanging movement, pace and trickery proving a real handful.

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Kenny Jackett has plenty of depth at his disposal too, meaning he can switch things up if necessary.

Who are Portsmouth’s key players?

In a squad packed with real quality in all areas, it’s difficult to pick out standout performers in the Pompey side.

But up top, wide duo Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis have certainly flourished this season - netting 15 between them already this season while providing plenty of assists for whoever plays as the central striker.

In the middle, meanwhile, former Sunderland target Tom Naylor has flourished since signing from Burton Albion over the summer and is one to watch carefully.

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So too is the experienced Brett Pitman who has proven to be a strong attacking option from the bench.

MORE: Jack Ross opens up on January transfer plans and contract talks with key duoBut perhaps the standout performer this campaign has been centre-back Matt Clarke, with the 22-year-old calm and composed in possession while remaining strong defensively. Josh Maja could face a difficult past to get past him on Saturday afternoon.

Do Portsmouth have any injury worries?

Portsmouth have no fresh injury worries ahead of the visit of Sunderland, meaning manager Kenny Jackett could opt to name an unchanged side from that which drew with Barnsley last weekend.

Who is Portsmouth’s manager and what can we expect from them?

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The experienced Kenny Jackett is the man in charge at Fratton Park after a managerial career spanning over two decades.

He has previously led the likes of Swansea City, Millwall and Wolves and is well-versed in third tier football.

READ: Sunderland director has this message for fans as attendance target is smashedSuch experience has proved vital to Pompey as they seek a return to the Championship.

What form have Portsmouth been in?

Having lost just twice all season, Portsmouth enter the clash of the two promotion rivals in strong form.

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While they have failed to win their last two League One outings, Pompey had won their last eight in all competitions prior to that.

They will be keen to bounce back this weekend - so Sunderland must be wary.

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