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'Lose to Burnley & do you expect the sack?' Plus 4 more key questions for David Moyes today

It's press conference Friday - the weekly dose of Moyes for those who don't find sticking pins in their eyes painful enough. Ahead of the biggest game of the season so far, here's the questions the Sunderland boss must be asked this afternoon but probably won't be by a press pack running scared of the mardy Scot.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Lose and face the consequences - or will he?

A week without a game has taken some of the sting out of Sunderland's perilous state at the bottom of the league as supporters have gone about their business glad of another break from the monotony of defeats, but the pressure to win against Burnley tomorrow should not be underestimated.

Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League
David Moyes at Turf Moor after the last league encounter between Sunderland and Burnley which saw his side thrashed
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Lose, and Sunderland will have to accept that a relegation which already looks desperately difficult to avoid will become almost certain. Win, and all bets are off and another miracle will be back on.

Burnley - although not entirely safe from relegation - are already one of this season's success stories but the Clarets' away form only adds to the pressure on David Moyes tomorrow. With no win on their travels all season, Sean Dyche's woes on the road bring an air of foreboding for a generous Sunderland side.

But, is Moyes actually under any pressure whatsoever, and will any of the assorted press pack ask the Sunderland boss those questions on the lips of supporters? Here's five posers for the manager presiding over the league's bottom club.


1. Lose to Burnley and do you expect the sack?

Aitor Karanka's dismissal from Middlesbrough leaves Moyes as the only manager in the Premier League's bottom six at the club at which they they begun this season.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Premier League
Aitor Karanka paid the price for a poor run as Middlesbrough slip down the table; but with things grimmer still at Sunderland, is David Moyes still untouchable?
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

That in itself ought to ramp up the pressure on the Sunderland manager this weekend. But all is eerily quiet on the question of whether Moyes - faced with a game his side need to win to save their season and potentially their Premier League status - might be held to account for his failings with the loss of his job.

Nobody in the media appears to have thought to ponder the question. Which is unusual. Do the deep-rooted problems at Sunderland negate any prospect of a failing manager being put of his misery - no matter how bad it gets? If he's simply the wrong one, is it right to keep him whatever comes our way?

Anniversarys of previous Ellis Short sackings are upon us. Except this year, the owner has vanished - bored of his broken toy.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Premier League
Martin O'Neill was one of the spring casualties at the Stadium of Light in recent years. The current Ireland boss was sacked with Sunderland one point above the relegation zone in March 2013.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

The argument for retaining faith with Moyes for an extended period of time is a compelling one. But never in the history of Premier League football has a manager gone into a mid-March 'must-win', with his side at the foot of the table well adrift of safety, without any question mark over his immediate future.


2. Lose to Burnley & do you deserve the sack?

Is the next logical extension of the above poser. David Moyes - with support from his merry band of local press sympathisers - has spent the bulk of this season ensuring the wider world knows that none of the issues at Sunderland have been his fault.

Sunderland v Aston Villa - Premier League
Gus Poyet was sacked in March 2014 after a home defeat against Aston Villa. Sunderland were one point above the relegation zone when the Uruguayan was dismissed.
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

The case for the defence has been vehemently argued. But, football is a results game. Lose tomorrow and surely logic dictates that most observers will finally reach the conclusion that David Moyes deserves the boot from Sunderland - he might not get it, but he does deserve it... doesn't he?


3. Will he commit to staying on in the Championship if Sunderland are relegated?

The is there any benefit to sacking him debate becomes a much easier one to answer if Moyes gives some sort of reassurance that he will remain at the club to oversee a long-term restructure even if Sunderland are relegated.

Moyes has spoken repeatedly about 'building' the club, but his demeanour and apparent portent-of-doom freudian slips have suggested that - at times - he really would prefer to be anywhere but Sunderland.

Last season, Sam Allardyce hinted he would walk out of the Stadium of Light if he was unable to save the club from the drop. Similar noises from Moyes would surely render him staying any longer as pointless. Does anyone dare ask him?


4. Who's he going to put on Joey Barton?

Okay, so there is the small matter of football to be played tomorrow. Sunderland's midfield has been the achilles heel all season and with Burnley likely to line up with the ultimate pantomime villain in the midst of the Stadium of Light pitch, who will be given the job of keeping a lid on former Magpie Joey Barton?

Sunderland v Burnley - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Joey Barton at the Stadium of Light in January
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Jack Rodwell took to the pitch for 20 minutes last time out against Manchester City in his latest return to fitness but Darron Gibson was the man who limped off to make way for him. Didier Ndong has continued to show promise pushed further forward and Jason Denayer is likely to be knocking on the door having displayed some ability in spoiling opponent's build-ups - particularly at home. Who's fit and, more importantly, who's up for it?


5. Captain Calm or Captain Chaos at the back?

Finally, the other big selection question rests on whether Papy Djilobodji is worthy of a recall for this one. The 28-year-old summer signing has missed five games since his ban for four in January.

Djilobodji wasn't trusted to face Manchester City as John O'Shea continued alongside Lamine Kone, and the Republic of Ireland captain did a reasonable job at keeping the Sunderland back-line organised.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League
John O'Shea was preferred to Papy Djilobodji for the visit of Manchester City last time out at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

But with a combo of Andre Gray, Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes set be the mix-and-match front men utilised in some way by Sean Dyche tomorrow, keeping all of them at bay as they rotate in front of the Sunderland defence will be a tough task.

In truth, Djilobodji did Okay up against the Claret's strike force in two of Sunderland's three previous encounters with Burnley this season.

Burnley v Sunderland - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay
Papy Djilobodji did Ok in the cup games against Burnley but he struggled in the league encounter at Turf Moor
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Senegalese centre-half was the pick of the defenders in both FA Cup games against the Clarets but he struggled in the 4-1 league reverse at Turf Moor on New Years Eve and was to blame for two of Burnley's goals.

A big call for Moyes this one - his defenders are usually worth at least one gifted goal to the opposition, a generosity that Sunderland can ill-afford for this most crucial of games.