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Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Who’ll get the chance to put Monday’s second half hell right at Hull?

After a pretty good first half on Monday night against WBA we turned in an awful second-half performance that cost us three points. So, who’ll be in the starting XI this afternoon?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

I’m not sure what happened on Monday night really. You didn’t have to know anything about the game to see West Brom’s primary threat was coming down their right-hand side, and yet we did absolutely nothing to stop it. We know Tony Mowbray likes to give players the chance to atone for poor performances, but there were too many poor performers in that second half go unchanged again.

The big questions heading into this game for me are Dan Neil and Dan Ballard. Neil’s struggling to impact games and while he had a decent first half he, like a few others, disappeared in the second 45. With Ballard fit again, does he come back into the team? And, if so, what does that mean for Luke O’Nien, who was man of the match on Monday.

Here’s how I think we could line up.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

His kicking was a bit dodgy on Monday night, but he couldn’t do much with either goal. Barring injury, Patterson’s a cert.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Defenders: Luke O’Nien, Dan Ballard, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

Aji Alese didn’t have the best of games on Monday night, and I think we’ll go back to basics today with Cirkin playing in his best position. On the other side, I wonder if we’ll see Luke O’Nien at right back, with Gooch dropping out of the team? The only way that will happen is if Ballard comes in to the centre of defence – after a run out for the u21s on Monday I think he could well play. By the sounds of it, Mowbray’s desperate to see him back in first team action, and with Batth they could be a formidable partnership.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light
It’ll be good to see Ballard back in action after being sidelined for four months
Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Midfield: Corry Evans, Abdoullah Ba

I think Dan Neil needs to come out of the team for a bit – the question is, who replaces him? Ba, Michut and Matete all offer alternatives. I really like Matete, and think he’s been criminally underused this season, but he doesn’t seem close to getting a start. Mowbray talked about Michut almost being ready, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got an unexpected start today, but I’m hedging my bets and guessing Ba might get a start. His only previous game from the off was the awful Cardiff match, but that shouldn’t cloud our judgement too much – he’s impressed hugely off the bench and deserves another crack.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
In from the cold?
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Attacking midfield: Patrick Roberts, Amad, Jack Clarke

Clarke was a surprising exclusion on Monday, and while he did little when he came onto the field I think he’ll come back into the team tonight – Embleton offered nothing and I just don’t see where he fits into the team. I’d like to see Roberts come in for Pritchard, and Amad’s one of the few players pretty much guaranteed a game.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Will we see Roberts from the off today?
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Striker: Ellis Simms

Stewart’s fit and raring to go, apparently – but I think we’ll see Simms keep his place in the starting XI, with Stewart coming off the bench for 30 minutes or so to ease him back in.


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