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Match Preview: Sunderland take on Wimbledon in Alex Neil’s first game in charge - will we win?

Alex Neil’s first real task as Sunderland gaffer is to lead his new side to a much-needed victory against Wimbledon today - can he get the job done?

Well, after two painstaking weeks, Sunderland have a new man in charge - former Norwich City and Preston North End manager Alex Neil, who has the difficult task of picking his new side up off the floor to try and win three points that we really cannot afford to chuck away.

I don’t envy him one bit, but today really should mark the start of a new era, and a clean slate for all the players - we have to draw a line under the disasters of the last month or so, because without focus and wins on the board we are in danger of slipping out of the play-offs, nevermind the race for promotion back to the Championship.

One thing is for sure - Neil is taking over a talented squad, and some minor tweaks will get us firing again. How quickly he’s able to implement them will be interesting, and with only one day of training under his belt, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see any huge changes tactically at Plough Lane this afternoon.

Preston and Norwich fans have been pretty unanimous in their view that Neil will bring fire and grit back to Sunderland, but also a desire to see his team playing high pressing, high tempo attacking football.

Preston North End v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport/CameraSport via Getty Images

Today, Sunderland have to bring all of that and more if they’re going to take anything away with them - one thing we’ve learned, particularly in the last three games, is that you can’t take an opponent for granted just because they’re in poor form.

On paper, you’d think that this is the perfect game for Neil to get off to a good start in, but Wimbledon are fighting for their lives at the other end of the table and need a win just as much as we do, but for differing reasons - we have to be prepared to scrap, and unfortunately, it has been a lack of desire and fight that has cost us points in recent games.

Whether or not Neil rings the changes remains to be seen, however, he has plenty of options - particularly in attack - at his disposal, and getting the right blend of attacking flair and defensive solidity will be absolutely key if we’re going to take all three points.

FBL-ENG-PR-SUNDERLAND-NORWICH Photo credit should read LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images

Patrick Roberts and Jermain Defoe are still waiting for their first starts since arriving at the club last month, and with a number of weeks’ worth of first-team training in their legs, they’ll both be pushing to get a chance under the new man in charge.

Ross Stewart is believed to be carrying an injury, so it’ll be interesting to see if he starts the game - if he’s deemed to be not fit enough, it’s highly likely that Defoe will be the man to lead the line for the first time in his second spell at the club.

Trai Hume and Jay Matete both impressed on their debuts during the week and are surely a shoo-in for a starting berth, as is Alex Pritchard - a man Neil knows well having spent big bucks to bring him to Norwich back in 2016.

One thing’s for sure - there cannot be any more mistakes.

We have better players than they do, and chucking away even more points through a lack of heart and desire over the ninety minutes would be simply unacceptable.

If Neil is to get Sunderland playing like a team capable of promotion, he has to get off to the best possible start with a victory this afternoon - no excuses.

No pressure, Alex.


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