Portsmouth v Sunderland: four key battles which could decide the Checkatrade Trophy final
Sports writer Will Rooney looks at four key battles heading into Sunday’s Checkatrade Trophy final between Pompey and Sunderland…
Nathan Thompson v Aidan McGeady
Republic of Ireland international Aidan McGeady is probably the most high-profile name who will feature at Wembley.
Capped 92 times for his country, umpteen Champions League appearances on his CV and recently named in the League One Team of the Season, he’ll be one of Sunderland’s chief attacking threats.
It will be Nathan Thompson who’s tasked with nullifying McGeady down the left flank.
The defender is regarded as Pompey’s best one-v-one defender and has proved he’s difficult to beat.
With Thompson determined to play higher up the Football League ladder, the challenge of McGeady could be an aperitif to what he may face next season.
Ronan Curtis v Luke O’Nien
Just like McGeady is Sunderland’s main outlet down the left, Irish compatriot Ronan Curtis is the same for Pompey.
Of course, there is still some doubt whether the winger will feature for Kenny Jackett’s side after severing his finger.
The signs of Curtis making Wembley are looking good, though, after training on Wednesday.
And having been sidelined for more than two-and-a-half weeks, the 23-year-old will be straining at the leash to get back to action.
Playing in front of a packed crowd and with the game being broadcast around the globe is the sort of scenario Curtis will thrive on.
He’s had a whirlwind of a maiden season at Fratton Park, scoring 12 goals and creating a further 15.
It will be Black Cats full-back Luke O’Nien who has to mark Curtis.
It was the Pompey wideman who emphatically won the battle during his side’s 3-1 win at Fratton Park in December.
Curtis should be buoyed with confidence from that outing and will look for a repeat performance.
Matt Clarke v Will Grigg
Will Grigg moved to the Stadium of Light for £3m on January transfer deadline day.
Many members of the Fratton faithful reckon Matt Clarke is worth at least that amount.
One thing is for sure: two high-quality players will up against each other at the national stadium.
Clarke’s place in the League One Team of the Season was nothing but deserved.
He’s without doubt one of, if not the best defender in the division.
But the same thing can be said about striker Grigg, who has a penchant for scoring goals in big games.
One last-ditch tackle or a moment of trickery could decide who wins the battle.
Ben Close v Lee Cattermole
Pompey’s fledgling midfielder will come up against the experienced Sunderland man.
Lee Cattermole is another in Jack Ross’ side who plenty of top-flight games under his belt.
With six goals to his name this season, the 31-year-old has clearly found himself getting into the box more and doesn’t play as deep as some would imagine.
Close, on the other hand, is 22 with his best years well ahead.
The Blues academy graduate also has netted six this term – with five coming in his past 10 outings.
Both players make things tick in the middle of the park and who sees more of the ball could result in which side clinches the silverware.
Check out our Checkatrade Trophy special in SATURDAY's Sports Mail
If you live outside the area or are unable to pick-up a copy, you can buy a copy by calling 033 0403 0066 which we'll then post out to you.