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The Big Match Preview: Sunderland v Ipswich; the big decision - 4-4-2 or stick on 3 at the back?

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Chris Coleman has fresh options for the visit of Ipswich. Will he launch a 4-4-2 at Mick McCarthy or stick with his preferred three centre-back system?

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris Coleman will weigh up whether to stick with Sunderland’s usual three centre-back formation or shuffle his pack for the visit of Ipswich Town this afternoon.

Another dire display - this time at Birmingham - could see the Black Cats boss ditch his preferred system and launch a 4-4-2 formation at Mick McCarthy’s men.

The arrival of fresh faces at the end of the transfer window has offered options but moreover, Coleman is all too aware that his side must start winning football matches - and quick - if Sunderland are to avoid relegation to League One.

That may see this afternoon’s hosts line up with new signing Ashley Fletcher up top, with one of Joel Asoro, Josh Maja or Kazenga LuaLua operating alongside him as sterile Sunderland look to get on the front foot. It’s now just five goals in the last nine games for a side who have been unable to find any rhythm in attack.

Sunderland Training Session
Ovie Ejaria could come straight into the side
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Coleman has issues at the back too, with Jake Clarke-Salter and Lamine Kone doubtful, though John O’Shea should return after recovering from illness. The availability - or otherwise - of the former pair will ultimately prove the decisive factor in Sunderland’s choice of formation.

Goalkeeper Lee Camp is set to be handed a debut after signing in the final moments of the transfer window, with Robbin Ruiter on the bench after his latest stinker in the West Midlands on Tuesday night.

Sunderland Training Session
Camp is sure to start
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mick McCarthy returns to the Stadium of Light for the umpteenth time - the former Sunderland boss has never been on the winning side when he’s brought a second-tier side to Wearside. The Tractor Boys have a handful of injuries, with striker David McGoldrick and midfielder Tristan Nydam doubtful, whilst Tom Adeyemi is likely to miss out.

If September’s 5-2 thrashing at Portman Road served to ram home how difficult Sunderland were finding life in the Championship, then of even more concern is the number of humblings the sorry Black Cats have received since that watershed night in Simon Grayson’s tenure.

Sunderland can theoretically jump up to 20th place with a win as Hull, Birmingham, Barnsley and Burton are all facing tricky away games. The mid-week mauling at the hands of a relegation rival was a bitter blow, but three points this afternoon could restore a little belief on Wearside.