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Survival still on or B£NT to bump us? 5 KEY QUESTIONS heading into Sunderland’s game with Burton

Sunderland could keep their slim hopes for survival going with a win today, but a bad result could relegate us. Here are the five key questions going into today’s game!

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Is there a smidgen of hope still there?

Amazingly, a win against Burton could see us go within touching distance of some of the sides above us.

Despite dropping six points in our last three matches we still aren’t mathematically relegated. If we can step up like we have done in recent games and find a way of holding onto a lead then there’s no reason why we can’t make the likes of Barnsley and Bolton just a bit nervous.

If we didn’t have a trip to a Fulham side gunning for promotion I would even have said we could have made a late burst to safety, yet unfortunately we’ve left ourselves with too much to do with the games fast running out.

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How will our defence line up?

Chris Coleman has been forced to tinker around with the defence on numerous occasions and this weekend looks set to be no different.

With no natural left back there are a couple of other options which Coleman could go for. We could line up with three at the back, with Marc Wilson, John O’Shea and Lamine Kone. This hasn’t always worked out this season; personally I think we’ve been at our weakest playing the three centre halves.

Coleman could therefore go with the classic four at the back. Adam Matthews, Kone, O’Shea and bring back Billy Jones is a possible line-up.

Ideally I wouldn’t want Jones back in the squad, so preferably our defence will be: Matthews at right back, Kone and O’Shea in the middle and either Wilson. There’s an option to bring in Jake Clarke-Salter too, but his recent disciplinary record means that he’s probably not worth the risk.

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Will the Darren Bent-Sunderland relationship come full circle?

This season has seen so many former players come back to haunt us. Daryl Murphy and Martyn Waghorn are two former strikers who have found the back of our net, but if Darren Bent was to do so for Burton it would feel just that bit more sickening.

His career didn’t really go much further once he got the move to Aston Villa he asked for in 2011, but I’m sure he’d absolutely love to potentially hammer the final nail in our championship coffin at the Stadium of Light.

He’s only scored once in twelve appearances for the Brewers, but don’t be surprised if Bent breezes past our defenders and taps it into Lee Camp’s net to relegate us.

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Can we get through a game without a goalkeeping or defensive howler?

This campaign has been littered with defensive mistakes; both goals at Reading could easily have been avoided if we had a competent goalkeeper and defenders who didn’t look like they’ve never played with each other before.

Defensive frailties will be the reason we drop out of the Championship and Burton is the absolute last chance saloon for us to survive - if we needed our goalkeeper and defenders to pick a game to not drop howlers it would definitely be today.

Our defence won’t be the issue, I don’t think. The main concern will be that for the umpteenth time this season we will have a goalkeeper between the sticks who is prone to producing an error at any given moment.

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Will there be a place on the bench for Molyneux?

With the confirmation during the week that Lyndon Gooch and Joel Asoro will remain sidelined for the rest of the season, we’ll be pretty light weight in wide positions for our remaining three games.

Callum McManaman will probably retain his place in the starting line-up, but Luke Molyneux has done enough since returning from injury to warrant a place on the bench.

A solid performance and two goals last week for the under 23s shows that the lad has talent - he is undoubtedly itching to get a chance and he’ll surely bring the sort of hunger which players like Honeyman and Gooch have brought to the team.

At this point in the season, there’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t get a chance to be called upon from the bench. Who knows, he could end up being a crucial part of our first-team squad one day.

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