Sunderland Preview: The opposition view as the Black Cats take on Rotherham United

It's time to get a view from Yorkshire as Sunderland go into their third game of the Championship season

We spoke to chief football writer with the Yorkshire Post, Stuart Rayner, ahead of Sunderland playing host to Rotherham United at the weekend.

WMS: What are your expectations for Rotherham Utd this season?

SR: Most Rotherham United fans aren’t deluded and their manager Matt Taylor certainly isn’t. It’s going to be another relegation scrap and given the huge gap in resources between Rotherham and clubs like Sunderland, never mind the parachute regiment, any season which ends with them in the 2024-25 Championship will be a good one.

WMS: What is Rotherham Utd’s preferred formation?

SR: The previous manager, Paul Warne, was all about 3-5-2 and it was only sensible Taylor keep it on at first but in the new year, with the help of a few signings, he largely moved more to a back four and wingers. This season, though, we’ve already seen both shapes.

WMS: Do you think Matt Taylor will likely tinker with this formation against Sunderland?

SR: Like a lot of managers starting the season with the transfer window, he’s probably still trying to find his perfect combinations but the Millers had a very good first 50 minutes playing 4-3-3 at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday until a red card messed that up.

WMS: What do you think Rotherham Utd’s likely starting XI will be?

SR: Goalscorer Fred Onyedinma is suspended for his crazy weekend red card and Grant Hall, Andre Green and Tom Eaves are close to returning from injury, but I wouldn’t imagine Taylor straying too far from the Blackburn blueprint.

WMS: Who are the Millers’ key players?

SR: Ollie Rathbone is a very cultured midfielder, and Ben Wiles – getting up to speed after a long lay-off last summer – has a good eye for goal from midfielder. Hakeem Odoffin has blossomed as a box-to-box midfielder under Taylor too, so it’s a question of how best to fit them all in. Their best player is goalkeeper Viktor Johansson.

WMS: Best Rotherham Utd signing of the summer so far?

SR: Two league games is far too early for me to say.

WMS: Which Sunderland player do you think the Millers will be worried about most?

SR: Those three midfielders – Rathbone, Wiles and Odoffin. The energy of Rotherham’s midfield has long been a strength but there is quality there too.

WMS: Where do you think Sunderland will finish in the league?

SR: A lot probably depends on whether they can sign the strikers they need. I have a lot of confidence in Tony Mowbray, though, and a top-half position should be do-able in a strong-looking Championship.

WMS: Score prediction for Saturday?

SR: Home advantage to swing it.

You can follow Stuart Rayner on X/Twitter