Sunderland under-23s face a trip to Carrow Road on Friday evening as they look to find a way past a free-scoring Norwich City under-23 side in order to reach their first ever European final in the Premier League International Cup.
The Black Cats recorded a 2-0 win over Spanish side Athletic Bilbao in the quarter-finals as the visitors were forced to end the game a man down thanks to Inigo Cordoba’s second-half sending off.
Elliott Dickman’s youngsters were impressive in their group stage matches, finishing on seven points after wins against Benfica B and Jong PSV and a solitary draw away to Derby County U23s.
Swedish striker Joel Asoro is currently Sunderland’s top-scorer in the competition with two goals to his name, while Andrew Nelson, Luke Molyneux and Elliot Embleton all have one goal each.
Taming a side that is as fluent in attack as Norwich is no easy task, especially given the fact that the Canaries thrashed Dinamo Zagreb B 6-0 in their quarter-final. The Championship side’s U23s have not been as efficient in the Premier League 2 this season however, lying rock bottom of the division with just four wins from 20 matches so far.
Their form in the Premier League International Cup could not be more of a contrast however, with Norwich netting 15 goals across their four matches in the competition so far. In addition to their quarter-final win, the Canaries won three out of three in Group E as they defeated Celtic U23s, Aston Villa U23s and Valencia B 3-0, 4-3 and 2-0 respectively.
Sunderland will need to remain wary of the first-team players that could be deployed on Friday evening. An example of this is Northern Irish striker Kyle Lafferty, who bagged a brace in their 6-0 quarter-final win.
A tie against FC Porto B awaits the victor of tomorrow’s tie after the Portuguese side beat Swansea City U23s by a 1-0 scoreline thanks to Galeno’s second-half strike.