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Preview: Portsmouth vs. Oxford United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's League One playoff semi-final first leg between Portsmouth and Oxford United, including team news and predicted lineups.

After an absence of nearly four months, the League One campaign resumes on Friday as Portsmouth and Oxford United face off at Fratton Park in the first of the playoff semi-finals.

Clubs voted in June to end the season early and settle the table on a points-per-game basis due to the coronavirus crisis, meaning that Pompey and United finished level on points.

Match preview

Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett pictured on January 28, 2020© Reuters

After a slow start to 2019-20 that saw them win only one of their first seven games, Portsmouth slowly built momentum to climb the table into their eventual position of fifth.

It goes without saying that Pompey's form at Fratton Park was the key to finishing in the top six, with no side in the third tier collecting more points on home soil.

Prior to drawing 2-2 with Fleetwood Town in what proved to be their final match of the regular season, Kenny Jackett's men had won seven in a row on the south coast.

Indeed, going further back, Portsmouth are unbeaten in 20 home league matches since April 2019, winning 12 of those games.

Oxford have their work cut out if they are to come away from Fratton Park with a first-leg lead of any sort, then, though they have performed well on their travels this season.

Oxford United manager Karl Robinson pictured in October 2019© Reuters

The Us won away at Ipswich Town and Shrewsbury Town in back-to-back matches before the coronavirus pandemic brought a premature end to the season.

Those wins gave United a final tally of 60 points - or 1.71 points per game - which is the same number that semi-final opponents Portsmouth finished with.

Much like Pompey, Oxford started the season slowly and had just five points from the first 21 on offer, seeing them down in 20th place at one point.

Karl Robinson's men slowly climbed the table, though, and a run of five successive wins to see out the season moved them into automatic promotion contention.

Had they been given the chance to play their remaining 11 fixtures, Oxford may well have continued that momentum and finished in the top two.

As it is, however, they have to settle for a place in the playoffs and another meeting with Portsmouth, whom they have already played out a couple of draws with so far this season.

Portsmouth's League One form: WLWWLD
Portsmouth's form (all competitions): LWWLLD

Oxford United's League One form: LWWWWW

Team News

Portsmouth's Christian Burgess pictured in January 2020© Reuters

The four month break has given Portsmouth a chance to get their injured players back to fitness in time for the playoffs.

Jackett has a full group of players to choose from and may opt to rotate from the 2-2 draw with Fleetwood on March 10, with John Marquis and Oliver Hawkins pushing for recalls.

Oxford are without Nathan Holland, who sustained a long-term injury last time out and has since returned to parent club West Ham United.

James Henry has top scored for United this season with 12 goals and is certain to start in attacking midfield, likely just off lone striker Matty Taylor.

Portsmouth possible starting lineup:
MacGillivray; Seddon, Raggett, Burgess, McCrorie; Naylor, McGeehan; Williams, Cannon, Curtis; Harrison

Oxford United possible starting lineup:
Eastwood; Ruffels, Mousinho, Dickie, Long; Rodriguez, Brannagan; Mackie, Henry, Fosu-Mensah; Taylor

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We say: Portsmouth 1-0 Oxford United

Portsmouth have not lost at home in the league in over a year, while Oxford won five in a row to see out the regular campaign. Form will surely count for little after a four-month gap between matches, however, and we can see Pompey taking a slender lead into next Monday's second leg.

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Portsmouth's Christian Burgess pictured in January 2020
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