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5 key questions going into tomorrow’s HUGE game at the Den between Sunderland and Millwall

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With twelve games left to play, Sunderland have to start winning soon or they’ll be as good as relegated. Here are five of the key questions surrounding tomorrow’s massive face-off with Millwall.

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1: Maja, Fletcher... or both - who starts up front?

Quite who will play up front for Sunderland tomorrow at Millwall is anyone’s guess.

Joel Asoro picked up an injury towards the end of the draw with Boro and Chris Coleman has confirmed that whilst he’s available, he has barely trained all week and we have to remember that we have three games in one week. On top of that, Ashley Fletcher - who has yet to score since arriving in January from Middlesbrough - comes back into contention after he was ineligible to play last Saturday. Kazenga LuaLua is back in training but, according to the Sunderland gaffer, isn’t quite ready yet to return to the fold.

On top of that, Josh Maja was the man that led the line in last weekend’s 3-3 draw, though whether he did enough to retain his place is up for debate.

If Asoro isn’t fit enough to start then Coleman may well try something different and start Maja and Fletcher together - an interesting pairing that hasn’t be tried yet, one that may well prove to be the catalyst for both men finally getting in amongst the goals.

Will Ashley Fletcher start?
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2: Can we capitalise on our late escape against Boro?

One of the big frustrations since Chris Coleman arrived at Sunderland has been the fact that the team simply haven’t been able to capitalise on positive results - and that has to change if we are to stand any chance of staying up.

Millwall are a big, ugly team that graft their socks off throughout the entirety of the ninety minutes and are brimming with confidence having managed to go unbeaten in eight games. It’s going to be difficult going to their patch and stealing three points but at this stage of the season we cannot afford to keep slipping up. Eventually we have to beat a team that are in good form.

Win, and with results going our way elsewhere we could be thrown right back into the scrap against relegation. Lose with the teams around us picking up points and it could prove to be catastrophic. Something has to change, and it has to happen this weekend.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

3: Will Coleman go on the offensive?

Knowing what we know about our opponents, but also considering the fact that we are desperate for three points, it’ll be interesting to see how Chris Coleman approaches this weekend’s game.

Playing everything in the air won’t work. Millwall will gobble us up if we try and play hoof-ball in much the same way that Birmingham did when we rocked up there and tried to play them at their own game.

We have to try and get our positive players on the pitch and working in tandem. Jonny Williams and Bryan Oviedo linked up well down our left in the second half on Saturday and it’ll be interesting to see if Coleman starts them together again tomorrow.

The Sunderland gaffer is typically conservative away from home anyways but I’m not sure that we can afford to play defensively when we’re at a stage in the season where we simply have to win.

PA Images via Getty Images

4: Who replaces Paddy McNair in central midfield?

Losing Paddy McNair again to injury is unfortunate. Just as we finally had a decent senior holding midfield option available his body succumbed to injury once again, and as a result we have to try and work out who we’re going to pick in his place in order to combat Millwall in the centre of the park.

George Honeyman played there in the second half last weekend, and though he was energetic and hard-working it’s not really a role that best suits him. Ethan Robson is another option, but whether he’s a little too inexperienced for a game like this is up for debate.

Then there’s Jonny Williams and Ovie Ejaria. Will he start either (or both) of the two men on their comebacks from injury, or will he keep them for the Villa game midweek?

Interesting, and entirely up for debate. Second-guessing Chris Coleman’s team selections is difficult, and I don’t envy his task of picking the side for tomorrow one bit.

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5: Has Callum McManaman earned his spot?

So... Coleman has hinted that, with two more games to play this week, Asoro mightn't play... and Callum McManaman is pushing a start following two impressive cameos as a substitute... it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could start in that Asoro role through the middle, right?

It’d certainly give Millwall something different to think about. Ideally Kazenga LuaLua would be fit and he’d be taking up this position within the side, but it’s something that is certainly worth pondering. I think the key to breaking Millwall down will be hurting them on the break, testing their keeper from range and creating chances out of nothing - and McManaman would certainly bring those qualities to our side. Food for thought.