WITH five points separating Sunderland from tonight's opponents Wigan, manager Paul Jewell should have no problems in making sure his players are ready for the occasion, writes Paul Fraser.

It promises to be a heated battle at the JJB Stadium but, with only five games remaining after this meeting, there is every chance the outcome in Lancashire will not be an over-riding factor in the destination of the Championship trophy.

There is an argument, because of the lead at the top, that Wigan will be the team wanting to take maximum points the most.

Mick McCarthy, for one, disagrees.

But it is the manager's view that has to be reflected in everyone of his Sunderland players tonight and, if that is the case, then the likelihood of a draw is a strong one.

If that happens then, although stranger things have happened, third-placed Ipswich could find themselves in an automatic promotion place by 10pm this evening.

The Tractor Boys have a home date with struggling Rotherham and if a vital victory is not forthcoming for Joe Royle's men then perhaps they don't deserve to be up there in the first place.

Ipswich and Sunderland meet at Portman Road later this month and that may have a huge say in who will be guaranteed a place in the top-flight next season without having to fight through the lottery of the play-offs.

None of the run-ins for the three are easy - particularly considering how there have been so many upsets in the Championship this season.

That is why, come the final day on May 8, it would come as no surprise to see the final standings similar to how they stand today.

That is with Sunderland having a five point cushion over their rivals and lifting the Championship title.

Read more about Sunderland here.