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Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Who will replace Aji Alese this afternoon for Sunderland?

After picking up yet another injury, this time to Aji Alese, Tony Mowbray’s side will be forced into at least one change this afternoon.

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tuesday’s game at Blackburn summed up all that’s good about Sunderland at present – and all that’s clearly lacking.

Despite dominating the game for long spells, we came away with absolutely nothing.

Yes, we can point to the sheer incompetence of the referee, but the fact is we don’t have a forward available who can score a goal like Ben Bereton-Diaz did, and we’ve not come close to scoring from a set-piece all season.

Tony Mowbray’s admission that Bennette, Michut, Ba and Amad aren’t ready to start games yet is surprising and concerning – we need to find a way to score goals and win games, and if he’s ruling all four out of first eleven selection in the short-term, our options are pretty limited.

Really, it looks as if our only selection dilemma will be who replaces Aji Alese in defence this afternoon.

Personally, I’d certainly give Ba a game from the off – I think Neil and Embleton were poor on Tuesday – but by the looks of things that’s not going to happen.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

No chance with either goal on Tuesday, and he commanded his goal pretty well too.

I don’t think his distribution is as bad as is made out by some, but it could do with sharpening up.

But he’s improving every game, and at this rate we’ve got some keeper on our hands.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Ewood Park Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Defence: Lynden Gooch, Luke O’Nien, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

Aji Alese will miss out for a few weeks, which is a real shame for him after getting into the team and really looking at home.

It was a pretty stupid tackle on him – completely needless and on another day the ref could have judged it as having excessive force and putting an opponent in danger.

However, Craig the Clown couldn’t have recognised his own mother on Tuesday, let alone an infringement. By the sounds of things, Gooch could be fit, and if he is he’ll come straight back in with O’Nien shifting along to partner Batth.

Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship
Gooch should return at right back today
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Midfield: Dan Neil, Corry Evans, Elliot Embleton

Dan Neil and particularly Elliot Embleton were poor on Tuesday – they didn’t influence the game anywhere near enough.

It’s frustrating – both of them are technically excellent, but are rather inconsistent this season.

But, with Mowbray not deeming Ba or Michut ready, we’ll not see much change in the centre of midfield today.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship
Let’s hope it’s another happy afternoon for Elliot Embleton at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attackers: Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard, Jack Clarke

Mowbray was full of praise for Patrick Roberts after the game on Tuesday, and hopefully Burnley’s possession game will give us the chance to create space for him and Clarke to run into and get at the Burnley defence.

Pritchard’s been a bit in and out this season, but he’s playing a more advanced role than he should really be doing and he’s plugging away.

He’s had the most shots in the Championship without scoring so far this season, so he’s due one.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship
Roberts is class. Just give him the ball in space and he’ll create something
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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