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Sunderland and Owls can put on a show

EFL Cup first round
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Thursday


Sunderland may be slumming it in the third tier but they are still box-office with the TV companies and Jack Ross’s Black Cats can light up our screens for the second time in less than a fortnight.

The Mackems' League Cup showdown with Sheffield Wednesday is only their third game since they were relegated from the Championship and is the second one that Sky are broadcasting.

The first, their home season-opener against Charlton, was a belting affair with Ross’s men coming from a goal down to snatch a 2-1 win at a packed Stadium of Light.

The crowd figure won’t be anywhere near as high for an EFL Cup tie but those who show up should expect more decent entertainment.


Bookmakers don’t have the firmest view on the match, which is understandable given the number of changes that Ross and opposite number Jos Luhukay are going to make.

But one bet worth considering is both teams to score and over 2.5 goals at 5-4 with Sky Bet.

Both teams have scored in both Sunderland matches so far – after the Charlton triumph they went to Luton and drew 1-1 in another sparkling affair with chances aplenty.

Championship side Wednesday, meanwhile, have kicked off 2018-19 with a 3-2 loss at Wigan and a 1-1 draw against Hull.

Luhukay looks as if he’s in a better place to make more changes than Ross – and has certainly said he will. Ross has indicated that he’ll pretty much stick with the 18 who travelled back from Kenilworth Road as he waits for a handful of key players to return from injuries.

Sunderland, beaten finalists in this competition as recently as 2014, are slight favourites and are already unrecognisable – in terms of personnel and morale – from last term.

There are a couple of old stagers still in the group – Bryan Oviedo and Lee Cattermole at least seem energised by Ross’s arrival though as high-earners they are definitely for sale – but the ex-St Mirren chief has rebuilt and the early signs are promising.

Promising enough to be able to beat a Wednesday side who won 3-1 at the Stadium of Light in April? Perhaps, and Wednesday’s record in this competition - just three victories in the their last 12 ties - is pretty dire.

Wednesday are under a transfer embargo over financial fair play misdemeanours, although the squad at Luhukay’s disposal is impressive.

Against Hull the Dutchman was able to partner the classy Fernando Forestieri up front with Steven Fletcher, who was part of that Sunderland team who trotted out at Wembley in the final four years ago.

But Luhukay can also summon Atdhe Nuhiu, Sam Winnall, Gary Hooper and ace starlet Fraser Preston. And against a Sunderland defence who have yet to prove themselves in a pair of League One outings – both Charlton and Luton were able to carve them apart far too easily – the Owls ought to find the net.

Recommendation
Both teams to score & over 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

19:00 TODAY

Real Betis v Ath Bilbao

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Athletic have kept one clean sheet in their last 14 matches
Expert verdict
The Europa League could be a drain on Real Betis but they rotated enough in Thursday's 0-0 draw away to Olympiakos to be trusted to justify favouritism against Athletic Bilbao. Betis have kept four straight clean sheets and according to expected goal figures should have scored four more times in La Liga so the chances are the hosts will soon become more prolific.