Rewind 13 years to 2006 and this fixture would be taking place in the Premier League. Unfortunately for both clubs, a lot has changed in the intervening years. Sunderland were relegated at the end of 2005/06 and Charlton would follow a year later. Whilst Sunderland would return immediately to the Premier League, and stay there for the next decade, Charlton have not been seen since, going through various promotions and relegations between the Championship and League One.
Following a run that saw just a single loss in their last 15 league games, Charlton secured a third-place finish, entering them into the play-offs for the first time since 1998, when they also met Sunderland in the final.
On paper, Charlton had the easier semi-final fixture, meeting sixth-placed Doncaster Rovers, who finished 15 points behind them and 12 points adrift of fifth-placed Sunderland. They didn’t make easy work of it though, winning the first leg at Keepmoat Stadium 2-1, but losing 3-2 at The Valley. Extra-time and penalties were needed to send them through to the final.
Despite suffering the fewest losses in the league, Sunderland would miss out on an automatic promotion spot due to their league-high 19 draws. Their hopes for automatic promotion were further harmed by an awful run of form in their last nine fixtures, comprising only two wins, four draws and three losses.
It’s not all doom and gloom though for the Black Cats, with the team showing plenty of mental resilience in the play-off semi-finals. They held onto a 1-0 lead in the first leg despite going down to ten men only five minutes after scoring, and at Fratton Park, in the second leg, Jack Ross’ men were able to grind out a 0-0 draw and seal progression into the final.
This is the closest matchup of all the play-off finals, with not a lot to choose between the two sides. Sunderland are marginal favourites at 13/9 (2.45) to seal promotion, with Charlton slight outsiders at odds of 13/7 (2.85).
It might seem a little surprising that Charlton, the form team in League One over the last 15 fixtures, aren’t entering this game as favourites. Especially given Sunderland’s poor finish to the season. As ever, context is key. Sunderland’s poor run was against top-half opposition in all but one of their last nine games. And while they haven’t been winning, they’ve not been getting beaten.
Sunderland have edged it over the two fixtures between the sides this season, winning at home and drawing away, and have an experienced squad who shouldn’t wilt under the pressure of the occasion. However, they’ve been leaky of late, with both teams scoring in seven of their last ten fixtures, so we’d opt for Sunderland to win and both teams to score at 39/10 (4.9).
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of going to print.