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The FIVE key questions facing Sunderland ahead of their season-defining visit to Derby tonight

With so much at stake tonight Chris Coleman can’t afford to make costly errors. Here are five things to ponder ahead of the game at Pride Park.

Image: Sunderland AFC

Will we throw the kitchen sink at Survival?

It’s pretty much a given fact that we’ll have a clear idea of what league we’ll be playing in next season by the end of the Easter weekend.

At least a win and a draw is needed to ensure we remain in the survival race - and whilst form suggests we’d be lucky to scrape anything more than a pair of draws, you have to just hope we’ll pull a rabbit out of the hat.

The only way we’ll do that though is if the manager starts taking risks. We can’t keep playing conservative football, and at some point we’ll have to go at a team from the off.

The only time I can really recall us doing it under Coleman was at home to Hull in what was easily our performance of the season. Lack of confidence has a lot to do with that, but if we are serious about staying up we need to pick up some unexpected results.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Can we keep eleven men on the pitch?

This seems like such a stupid question but we’ve had loads of red cards recently, and clearly there’s an issue with concentration and discipline in the team.

We looked alright against QPR before Steele was sent off and then against Preston we were still in the game up until Jake Clarke-Salter received his marching orders.

I’ve got no doubt that budding punters will consider having a cheeky bet on us to pick up another red today - we just have to try and ensure that nobody profits from our stupidity again tonight.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Will we accomodate Aiden McGeady?

There’s no arguing that Aiden McGeady is a good player, it’s just that he’s unbelievably inconsistent and doesn’t work as hard off the ball as Chris Coleman would perhaps like.

Regardless, we need to win today and I don’t see how that’s possible with the Republic of Ireland winger sat on the bench.

I made an audacious suggestion this week on Twitter that we should maybe try McGeady as a false nine in a front three. Why not? What else have we got to lose? He can certainly play that role and it’s no less of a risk than plonking the utterly hopeless Ashley Fletcher up top on his own again.

I’d never expect Coleman to try something as ridiculous at this stage in the season but either way we need to find a way of getting McGeady in the team on a more consistent basis between now and the end of the season.

I hope for our sake that he not only starts but is the key to success for us at Pride Park this evening.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Will LuaLua finally start a game?

Another player that we need to see in the team and producing if we’re going to stay up is Kazenga LuaLua, who was signed to help provide a spark yet has barely been seen since arriving from Brighton in January.

Chris Coleman said that he doesn’t believe that the former Newcastle winger is fit enough at the moment but with risks needing to be taken, maybe starting him and getting an hour or so out of LuaLua is something to ponder.

With Joel Asoro missing today but potentially fit enough for Monday’s game there’s a void to fill, and who Coleman trusts to give us energy and pace out wide is anyone’s guess. Callum McManaman will be hoping for a start, as will George Honeyman.

If it was me I’d be tempted to throw Kazenga on from the start in the hope you can get a good first half out of him. It might be the difference between winning and losing.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Four or Five at the back (again)?

We seem to ask this question every week but with a fresh selection headache to consider, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Chris Coleman persists with his preferred system.

You’d presume that Marc Wilson will step into the defence following his return from injury but, then again, Coleman isn’t one to take risks with the fitness of his players and he may instead prefer to give him half an hour at the end with a view to starting on Monday.

If we do opt to go with four it will allow us to get more attackers in the team, which at such a desperate stage of the season might be something worth considering.