DEFENSIVE stalwart Christian Burgess expects the Pompey faithful to have Fratton Park ‘rocking’ when they welcome their League One nemesis to the south coast on Saturday.
The game against Sunderland will mark the 28-year-old’s 200thin a Portsmouth shirt, and the centre back sees the clash as a fitting way to mark the milestone.
Pompey moved into the top six for the first time this season with their impressive 2-0 win at Lincoln on Tuesday, only for the Black Cats to leapfrog them 24 hours later with a 1-0 win at Tranmere.
The rivalry between the two clubs was cemented last season when the they clashed on five separate occasions, most memorably in front of a full house in the EFL Trophy Final at Wembley when Pompey triumphed in a penalty shoot-out.
Sunderland gained their revenge with victory in the play-offs, and the enmity on and off the pitch has continued through to the current campaign.
“There’s a lot of excitement about facing Sunderland because they’re always big games when we play them,” said Burgess, who has missed just one league game this season – the 4-1 defeat at Accrington.
“I think there’s a certain rivalry because it’s two massive clubs in this division and we came across them quite a few times last season, which has added some spice.
“Both are coming into it with a bit of form and so it should be an entertaining contest – it’s an opportunity for us to keep our momentum going.
“The fans love these kind of games where there’s a lot to play for, and I’m sure the ground will be rocking on Saturday. It’s a pleasure for us to be on the pitch when the atmosphere’s like that, so everyone’s looking forward to it.”
Pompey and Sunderland are both in form with Kenny Jackett’s side winning their last seven games in all competitions, and Phil Parkinson’s men unbeaten in their last nine league games.
And the Portsmouth boss has his sights firmly set on automatic promotion, seeing a repeat of January’s form in February as pivotal to their hopes of a top-two place.
“They’re all going to be important games because it’s so tight, but facing Sunderland is big at any stage of the season,” said Jackett.
“We’ve played eight matches in January – winning seven of them and drawing one. There are another eight scheduled for February, so we’re looking to keep performing how we have been.
“The top two is open for a number of teams when you look at the points total, so we’re looking forward and trying to maintain our recent form. We have to make sure we get our consistency and organisation right to take the opportunity that is there for us.”
• Teenage winger Leon Maloney has left Pompey to join Dutch second division side FC Volendam. The 18-year-old made five appearances for Kenny Jackett’s side, all in the EFL Trophy.