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Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Sunderland return to the Stadium of Light today – who’ll be lining up for the lads?

After a couple of weeks of no action, the lads take on Preston at home. It’s only Tony Mowbray’s second home game – so who will be in his starting XI?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

While our result at Watford was good - in fact, had the game gone on for a bit longer we probably would have won – the were a few dodgy individual performances. Nothing concerning, just a few players not at their absolute best.

That all changed of course with the subs coming on – it’s a real benefit of having those five subs available that we can throw a number of potential game changers onto the field – and Bennette, Amad and Ba all played a major role in getting us a point.

Bennette followed that up with a two-goal display for Costa Rica in South Korea, and while he stayed on the bench for their second game he only arrived back in England on Thursday night, so anything more than a spot on the bench is unlikely.

Here’s how I think we might line up today.


Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patterson’s certainly fast-tracking his development with championship football – if you were going to be hypercritical, you’d maybe pull him on Watford’s goals, but he’s got all the attributes to be an excellent keeper, and he’s certainly on the right track.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Defence: Lynden Gooch, Luke O’Nien, Danny Batth, Aje Alese

I’ve seen various interpretations of our line up in the last couple of games. Is it a back three or a four. It looks more like a four to me, with the defence shuffling along to cover if Gooch bombs on, but it’s certainly flexible. Dennis Cirkin was back on the grass this week, but he’ll find it tough to displace Alese, after two excellent games and a goal, too. I expect Alese will keep his place, and Cirkin eased back into things.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Will Alese hold onto his place?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Corry Evans, Dan Neil, Alex Pritchard

I thought Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil struggled in the first half at Watford – neither could find a teammate with any regularity, and it’ll be interesting to see what Mowbray does today. I thought Ba was sensational when he came on. Much of the talk was rightly about Bennette, but Ba was superb, and I did think given he’s only been in France this week – rather than the other side of the world – we could see him given a start.

However a dead leg may put pay to that.

Given the injury concern, we could see Embleton start again – however, I reckon we might drop Pritchard deeper to give Preston a different type of challenge up front...

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

Attackers: Patrick Roberts, Amad, Jack Clarke

With Simms still out and Jewi jetlagged, our options are a bit limited – but I think we could see Amad given a start today. He looked really lively at Watford, and with Preston’s defence being a strength, his pace could make a real difference.

Roberts has been brilliant in the past two games, and he’ll certainly keep his place, while Clarke will surely complete the forward line.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Roberts has been excellent in the past 2 games
Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

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