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Take Five – the key questions ahead of tomorrow’s clash against Millwall

After a two-week break, we’re back in action tomorrow at the Stadium of Light. Here’s five questions we’ll soon know the answers to.

Sunderland v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

1. Who’ll line up in defence?

Last time out we were a bit short at the back, and ended up with a back four of Hume, Wright, Batth and Huggins. Bailey’s obviously otherwise engaged this weekend, and with Cirkin, Alese and Gooch fit (fighting fit in Lynden’s case) and O’Nien back from suspension, Tony Mowbray has a few options open to him. I reckon we could see Huggins moved over to right back, with O’Nien and Batth in the middle and Cirkin on the left, but feasibly it could be O’Nien, Batth, Alese and Cirkin. Or Hume could just as easily keep his place at right back. Either way, it’s a good problem to have.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
Will Huggins return to SoL action tomorrow?
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2. How do you solve a puzzle like Roberts and Amad

Before Tony Mowbray’s arrival, Patrick Roberts cut a frustrated figure as he was permanently benched under The Snake. Mowbray immediately put him back in the starting XI and heralded him as one of the best players in the league. He’s a brilliant asset for us - but then again, as he’s particularly shown over recent weeks, so too is Amad. Both are best playing from the right - so how do you get them both into the team? After Birmingham, my view was it was either/or. Mowbray has said he needs to figure out how to get them both into the same XI. Against the Saudi Fighters, Amad played behind Simms with Roberts on the right - will we see the same tomorrow?

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Food for thought...
Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

3. Will we see the Sock Ness Drogba?

The ‘Loch Ness Drogba’ socks – being sold to raise money for this year’s Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen appeal are flying off the proverbial shelves (if you haven’t got any yet, get in while you can) – but will we get to see the man himself tomorrow? He’s been back in training for a couple of weeks now, but there was no sight of him in our friendly game last week – so will our talisman return tomorrow? And, even if he does, how long will he be sticking around. Personally, I think he’ll be gone in January – his stock will be high and with no sign of a new contract being agreed he could well be off – but hopefully not. If he’s in the squad tomorrow, let’s make it clear we want him to stay!

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship
Will the big fella return?
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

4. Will we have solved our set piece problem?

One major disappointment this season has been our set pieces. We’ve not scored from one all season, and it’s a huge problem. Tony Mowbray - unbelievably so in my view - even admitted we weren’t practising them because of our lack of height. Will a couple of weeks on the training ground included some set-piece training? Hopefully, because success from free kicks and corners is imperative for any team, and doesn’t rely solely on height.

Sunderland Unveil New Head Coach Tony Mowbray
Set piece training anyone?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

5. How much stoppage time?

During the World Cup, it’s been refreshing to see ‘proper’ stoppage time being added on each half. The amount of time-wasting we’ve seen over the past four and a half seasons at the Stadium of Lig HT has been ridiculous - there was a stat that against Preston earlier this season their time-wasting was so bad the ball had only been in play for 40 minutes of the 90. Will EFL officials follow suit? Let’s hope so.

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