Sunderland vs Wycombe news: Black Cats desperate to make history, Chairboys keen to repeat it

Promotion to the Championship will be at stake when recent play-off kings Wycombe Wanderers take on perennial play-off flops Sunderland.

Sylvester Stallone once said: "It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." That may be a short quote from a fictional boxing film, but it's also a line which perfectly encapsulates Sunderland's play-off history. 

Over the last 35 years, the North East outfit have suffered six play-off heartbreaks. Nevertheless, in true Rocky style, the Black Cats have come back off the canvas, and they're ready for round seven.

Their opponents this weekend are Wycombe Wanderers - a club which has enjoyed recent play-off success. 

The club's boss, Gareth Ainsworth, may have the appearance of a Metallica member, but don't be fooled - his managerial abilities are not to be questioned.

Wycombe were a League Two club when the 49-year-old took over as manager in 2012, yet this weekend he's looking to take his side back into the Championship at the first time of asking.

Since 2009, the club have been involved in four promotions, with the Chairboys most recently beating Oxford in the 2019/20 play-off final to earn their first ever season in the Championship.

When: Saturday, May 21, 15:00 BST

Where: Wembley Stadium

Where to watch: Sky Sports

Follow this game via our score centre

Who is the ref for Sunderland vs Wycombe?

Referee Simon Hooper during the Premier League match

Simon Hooper will take charge of his 31st game this season.

The 39-year-old hasn't officiated in League One this year, but considering 18 of his games this season have seen three or more goals scored, we could be in for another thriller this weekend.

Season stats 2021/22: Matches (30), yellow cards (103), red cards (1), penalties (10)

Recent form

Danny Batth of Sunderland is congratulated after scoring

Sunderland come into the play-off final on the back of a 15-match unbeaten run.

Alex Neil, who took over managerial duties in early February, has only lost one of his 17 games at the club, enjoying nine victories in the process.

Wycombe were in the midst of their own 13-match unbeaten run, until their 1-0 defeat to MK Dons in the second leg of their play-off semi-final.

The Chairboys have won three of their last four games, scoring five goals in the process and conceding just twice.

Last time out

Wycombe 3-3 Sunderland (League One - January 8, 2022)

Wycombe avoided a third straight defeat against the Black Cats following a dramatic extra-time equaliser.

Sunderland opened the scoring through a David Stockdale own-goal, but soon found themselves behind as efforts from Anis Mehmeti and Sam Vokes moved the hosts ahead.

Ross Stewart equalised before the break and scored again in the 93rd minute to give the visitors what seemed to be an unassailable lead.

Wycombe had other ideas though, as a 98th minute strike from Joe Jacobson secured a dramatic draw.

Past six games

Sunderland wins: 2

Draws: 3

Wycombe wins: 1

Sunderland goals: 12

Wycombe goals: 7

Managers' thoughts:

Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth

Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth said "We're going to be the underdogs and that is going to be our approach as that's how we do things here.

"This is a David and Goliath without a shadow of a doubt, and I am very proud to say that this could be the biggest away following Wycombe have had this century."

Sunderland manager Alex Neil said "We're in a really good place at the moment but the difficulty you have with play-offs is that there are only two possible outcomes - you're either going to be a hero or you're going to be hopeless. There's no inbetween.

"If we don't win the next game, it's not going to look good, is it? There's no middle ground - that's it in a nutshell. Nobody cares who gets the silver medal, do they?"

Predicted Sunderland vs Wycombe teams

In his pre-match press conference, Neil admitted he has a fully fit Sunderland squad at his disposal.

That would seem to suggest that Nathan Broadhead, who suffered a muscle injury in the semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday, is back in contention for the Wembley showdown.

Wycombe have Anis Mehmeti, Jack Young and Nick Freeman back in training ahead of this one. However, Gareth Ainsworth may consider this one too big to be risking players recovering from injury.

Possible Sunderland starting line-up: Patterson, Wright, Batth, Cirkin, Gooch, Evans, O'Nien, Clarke, Roberts, Pritchard, Stewart

Possible Wycombe starting line-up: Stockdale, McCarthy, Stewart, Tafazolli, Jacobson, Gape, Scowen, McCleary, Horgan, Obita, Vokes

Sunderland vs Wycombe prediction

Sunderland's play-off history is something which will play on the minds of supporters - but not Alex Neil and his men.

The Black Cats have looked solid under new boss Neil, and they take on a Wycombe side who hardly survived their second-leg against MK Dons.

Time to take that champagne out of the fridge Sunderland fans, we're backing you to win by a narrow one-goal margin.

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