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Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Opinion: “Sunderland’s young squad face two tests of character against Burnley and Luton”

With two tricky games to come, Tony Mowbray and his players need to bounce back quickly from their Ewood Park disappointment, writes Paddy Hollis

Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Following Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat, Sunderland sit in twelfth position in the Championship table, while Blackburn’s victory saw them move to the summit, despite losing more games than us so far this season. It seems slightly bizarre, but that is the nature of this league at times.

Despite the scoreline at Ewood Park, we can feel hard done by, as two questionable refereeing decisions resulted in us leaving Lancashire empty-handed.

Interestingly, if VAR had been in play, you could’ve argued that both of Blackburn’s goals wouldn’t have stood, but we’ve just got to get on with things.

The matches are coming thick and fast in the run-up to the World Cup break, and the next two games in particular could be a real test of character for a squad that has shown its mettle time and time again.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Next up is the visit of Burnley who, under the management of former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, have occupied one of the automatic promotion spots for most of the season.

They are unbeaten since the third match of the campaign, and can call on a squad full of players with Premier League experience.

The Clarets are a side who know how to keep putting points on the board, and have kept themselves in and around the top two with impressive consistency. Their visit to Wearside comes a week before we head down south, to play another side currently occupying a top six place.

At the time of writing, Luton Town are fourth in the league and fresh from an impressive 1-0 away at Norwich City. Three wins from their last five games, and no defeats in seven, constitutes a pretty formidable run of form.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

During another season and under different circumstances, I may have been dreading these next two fixtures, especially on the back of a defeat, but at this point in time I’m looking at them with intrigue.

Sunderland’s squad, though seemingly riddled with injuries, is exciting and talented to the point where I don’t fear anyone in this division.

We have struggled to break down teams who have shut up shop and soaked up pressure, including the likes of Preston and Blackpool, but several of the more expansive sides in the league- Rotherham, Reading and Bristol City to name three- have been put to the sword.

Burnley and Luton are two sides that will not sit back against us- they’ll be going all out to maintain their position within the top six.

However, our young and developing squad should thrive in these matches and as underdogs, we’ll have a real chance to tussle with the sides most likely to be in the promotion mix at the end of the season.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

From recent showings, you would hope and almost expect to see the likes of Abdolluah Ba, Jewison Bennette and Amad Diallo play major roles in the next two matches, and hopefully from the start.

Corry Evans and Elliot Embleton may be two of the players to make way in order accommodate some of the new players, and give them the chance to make an impact from the off.

Encouragingly, and despite our lengthy injury list, we have the depth in most positions to make changes, regardless of who the opponent is.

Such is the unpredictability of the league that we could take zero points from Burnley and Luton, or we could take all six, because on our day, we can certainly be a match for anyone.

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