The Championship doesn’t return in full until next week but there is one match on this weekend, with Sunderland and Millwall playing their game in hand on the teams around them. Sunderland, back in the Championship after four years out, will have been hoping it would be a brief stay on their way to the Premier League but they instead find themselves embroiled in what has to be one of the closest seasons in recent memory.
Although Sunderland sit down in 15th, they are just four points outside the play-off places – in fact they are only six behind fourth-placed Watford and have this as their game in hand. The Black Cats entered the World Cup break with two wins from their past three Championship matches, beating Birmingham and Huddersfield either side of a defeat to Cardiff.
The team currently occupying the final play-off spot, four points clear of Sunderland, are Millwall and they will be looking to move further up the table. Millwall are tied on points with three teams below them but importantly have a game in hand, so victory at the Stadium of Light would open up a gap and could lift the Lions up to fourth.
Before the World Cup break, Millwall were unbeaten in three matches, but two of those were draws against Birmingham and Hull before ending with a 4-2 victory over Preston. That came as part of a wider impressive run which saw Millwall lose just two of their past 10 Championship matches since the start of October, winning five and drawing three.
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Sunderland vs Millwall match stats
Many will automatically think of Millwall as the dirtier team for most of their matchups this season, due to a historical view of the London club, but they despite committing 223 fouls (the seventh-highest in the Championship) they have received just 34 yellow cards and no reds. By contrast, Sunderland have received more yellow cards than any other team in the Championship this season with 54, plus one red.
It’ll be interesting to see how these two sides fare after their break, but Jack Clarke will be hoping he can hit the ground running once more. Joining Sunderland in the summer, the former Tottenham man has been directly involved in 10 goals in the Championship this season, scoring four and providing six assists, with no player setting up more.