Updated : 2pm
A Back Five Again? Or Something More Fluid?
David Moyes set up his team with five at the back for the trip to Turf Moor on Tuesday night. It was hardly a glorious success but with only eleven or twelve senior outfield players for today's Premier League fixture at West Brom, the manager's mettle at getting the best out of what he has available will be tested to the limit from 3pm this afternoon.
Certainly three centre-halves will be on the pitch for Sunderland today - with Billy Jones now maybe classed as fourth after his showing there against Burnley - but how they arrange themselves will be key facing a West Brom side who have already hit three goals past both of our bottom-three neighbours, Swansea and Hull, within the past six weeks.
Moyes must contend with a headache-inducing mix. He is the custodian of a squad devoid of options which will face one of the densest middle sets in the Premier League. Tony Pulis loves a packed midfield and a muscular back-line, but he also has some pace and guile lurking in his pack with the likes of Nacer Chadli and Matt Phillips, not to mention top-scorer, Salomon Rondon.
Sunderland's centre-halves simply must find a way to stop Rondon giving them the run-around this afternoon. David Moyes' defenders were exposed against Stoke last weekend and are shipping goals at an alarming rate - fourteen goals conceded in the last six games.
Didier Ndong's absence has left Sunderland's midfield devoid of energy. Jason Denayer was left labouring last weekend against Stoke City as a square peg in that middle round hole playing alongside Jack Rodwell. For his part, Rodwell had forgotten he was supposed to be relaunching himself - again - and as the senior member of the holding pair, he flattered to deceive.
Vito Mannone is a shoe-in between the sticks; but will the real Vito please stand up, and if he turns out to be the one who flapped about against Stoke and Burnley will he please sit down again. The goalkeeper who kept Liverpool at bay will do nicely however.
With Jordan Pickford due for a scan on Tuesday to update his boss on the likely time frame for his return, Mannone has but a few games now to try and cement himself back as Moyes' number one 'keeper.
Donald Love was targeted and frankly picked on by Mark Hughes and his men seven days ago. Love displayed a hesitancy that muscular sides like Stoke City and today's opponents West Brom can and will exploit with glee.
So Billy Jones looks like starting at the back with the former Manchester United youngster likely pushed further upfield today.
Sunderland's front-three pick themselves, and in truth should cause most sides in the bottom half of the Premier League problems with a little application. It's that application which has been lacking and today's success or failure will depend if they can find a way to link-up properly and apply their mettle in games. The microscope has swung onto Januzaj and Borini with both irking supporters in recent showings, and another malaise by either will write headlines tomorrow.
Sunderland likely starting eleven:
One change from Tuesday night likely then, George Honeyman who had made his full debut in the FA Cup defeat at Burnley, looks like staying in midfield. His continued inclusion hints at formation changes here but we will have to wait until 2pm to find out what....
But of course Jermain Defoe will be restored to striker, with Javi Manquillo either dropping to the bench or ruled out altogether with a calf problem which was due for a late assessment this morning.
Either lined up as a 5-4-1 or a 3-4-3, though that is likely to be fluid with the additional men dropping back into defence when in retreat.
Mannone, Jones, Denayer, O'Shea, Djilobodji, van Aanholt, Honeyman, Larsson, Borini, Defoe, Januzaj