By Site Reporter
Friday 21 Dec 2018 23:19:00
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Kenny Jackett might be insistent that Pompey's clash with Sunderland is no more important than their games against Gillingham and Fleetwood, but the vast majority of the 19,000 inside Fratton Park on Saturday will think otherwise.

It feels like Pompey's biggest game for several years, pitting the League One leaders against the challengers that many still rate as favourites for the title.

Of course there is half a season to play, so defeat for either Pompey or Sunderland this weekend will mean no more than a little lost ground in the overall race for points. But that said, it does feel like a game neither side will want to lose.

Some then may come to the conclusion a draw is the most likely outcome, but when did football ever follow such logic? While neither side would be particularly unhappy to end the afternoon with a point, that does not mean either will be setting out to settle for a draw.

The Blues will start the afternoon five points ahead of Sunderland, although Luton - who host Burton - will be out to reduce the gap in the event of a Pompey slip up.

Jackett is under no illusions about how strong a side Sunderland have this season. He told the club website: 'They have realigned very well after their problems and are looking to get back to the Championship at the first attempt. We have to make sure that everyone’s on top form and we’ve had really good output from all our players this season. We’re going to have to make sure that’s the same again on Saturday.'

Relishing the prospect of taking on the Black Cats is loan star Ben Thompson, who told the site: 'It’s a massive game – all the supporters and players know that, and it’s why it sold out so quickly.

'I’m sure it’s going to be a tasty encounter and everyone’s looking forward to it. We want a win to set us up nicely for after Christmas. I think we’ve already made a statement by being top of the league for most of the season, but this is the one that everyone wants to see.

'The bigger the game, the better for us. You get more excited before kick-off and it’s what you live for as a footballer. I can’t wait for it personally and the other boys probably feel the same. Everyone’s working hard on the pitch and there’s nobody here who’s struggling – we’re all on the same wavelength.

'When I won promotion with Millwall, we were going into most games thinking we were going to win and it’s the same here.'

Pompey seem likely to go with the same starting line-up that drew 1-1 at Barnsley a week ago.

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