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TWO changes in defence and ONE up front; will THIS be the Sunderland starting XI at Leeds today?

Is this the side that Chris Coleman will select for Sunderland’s game down at Elland Road this afternoon?

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Goalkeeper: Lee Camp

What does Chris Coleman do? We’re leaking goals like a sieve under a waterfall, but we’ve been through all our senior goalkeepers without finding a solution. The closest we came was when Robbin Ruiter kept a few clean sheets when the manager first arrived. Since then, it’s been a case of conceding multiple goals every game.

With eight points separating us from safety, a section of the fanbase has suggested we start reviewing our options for next season. However, Coleman has, this week, dismissed talk that the likes of Max Stryjek should be more involved. Whilst the argument for preserving his confidence for next season remains, we may get a chance to see him before the end of the season if our fate is sealed in the next few weeks and Coleman starts to plan for life in League One.

Maybe we’re not there yet, so whilst mathematically it remains possible to stay up, Coleman will continue to trust the more senior members of his squad.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Defenders: Love, Kone, O’Shea, Matthews

Coleman has suggested Lamine Kone, Jake Clarke-Salter and Adam Matthews are available for today’s game, whilst doubts linger over Bryan Oviedo and Brendan Galloway - remember him?

It’s likely that changes will be made: with Oviedo a doubt, there’s likely to be a recall to the side for Welsh international Adam Matthews.

In the heart of defence, Coleman needs to find another Derby-esque result and that could see Lamine Kone return to the side. Whether that is alongside O’Shea, Wilson, or Clarke-Salter remains to be seen, although I’d suggest O’Shea would be Coleman’s first choice until his contract expires.

At right back Donald Love will probably keep his place as options in that position are more limited. To be fair, he’s a player that needs a run of games for Coleman and his backroom staff to make a reasonable assessment of his suitability for next season.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfielders: Cattermole, McNair, Honeyman, Gooch, McGeady

At Derby our midfield performed very well and drove the side on. Against Sheffield Wednesday, the desire remained but our lack of quality was on show. Did the games come too quickly for the likes of Lynden Gooch to fully recover? Will Coleman stick with the midfield after a longer rest period or introduce new legs?

Ovie Ejaria will be available, as will Ethan Robson, Kazenga LuaLua and Callum McManaman. If Sunderland are to get anything today, the battle will surely have to be won in the middle of the park. The energy of McNair, Honeyman and Gooch may be key, and releasing Aiden McGeady to be creative will be crucial.

Just like when we defeated Derby, the key will be to support the striker and press high. Of course, that could also lead to a change of formation to match Leeds in a 4-4-2 line-up, but if winning the midfield battle is critical, Coleman could well maintain the extra man in this department.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attacker: Joel Asoro

Like the goalkeeper, Coleman has tried various options in attack to varying degrees of success. Ashley Fletcher hasn’t performed as everyone hoped, but showed signs of recovery at Derby. Josh Maja may well have to work his way back through pre-season to be a regular starter, but his potential is one Coleman has praised recently.

The one striker who could stake a claim between now and the end of the season is Joel Asoro. He was unlucky to miss out at Derby following a head injury sustained whilst on international duty. He had performed well and scored twice for the Swedish U21s and Coleman must hope he can carry that form back to club level.

Returning Asoro to the starting eleven at Elland Road may give Sunderland the best chance of keeping whatever slim hopes we have of staying up alive.

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