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Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1

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Starting XI: What team will Alex Neil pick when Sunderland face Wigan today?

Alex Neil said yesterday he has more problems than solutions when it comes to team selection.

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

In his pre-game press conference yesterday, Alex Neil said he had more problems than solutions at present with a few players picking up knocks.

We don’t know the identity of any of the players on the doubtful list, so I’m going to assume (hope) the players who have concerns will make a full recovery.

On Tuesday, Neil tried three at the back and two up front, and that didn’t really work either – however, with our lack of defensive nous at present I think it’d be foolhardy to go in with a back four against a free-scoring Wigan team – therefore I suspect we’ll go something like this.


Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Neil preferred Patterson to Hoffmann again on Tuesday – and, while Patterson could probably have done better with Burton’s goal he didn’t do a great deal wrong overall and looked a bit more composed than he did last Saturday.

I’d play Hoffmann, I just think he’s better, but the signs point to Neil sticking with Patterson.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Defence: Lynden Gooch, Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin

The fact Xhemajli wasn’t even on the bench on Tuesday, and we played Winchester in defence again, suggests the Kosovan isn’t anywhere near starting a game – which makes a mockery of Speakman’s comments about him after the transfer window. Lynden Gooch came into the side on Tuesday and did what Lynden Gooch does – lots of effort, little else.

Danny Batth was on the bench in midweek, so if he’s fit again I’d play him in the centre of the three-man defence (particularly with Magennis up front for Wigan) with Wright and Doyle either side.

At wingback, I’d prefer to see Trai Hume on the right, but suspect he’ll stick with Gooch. On the left, we could play Dajaku there, but given the opposition it’d be safer to play the more defensive Cirkin.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Midfield: Jay Matete, Carl Winchester, Alex Pritchard

Matete is raw but I like him a lot - he’s added some dynamism and energy to the midfield and can help us get on the front foot.

Corry Evans has been completely ineffective in recent games, so I’d like to see Winchester partnered with Matete, with Alex Pritchard again deployed more centrally in an attacking midfield role.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1
Pritchard simply has to play centrally
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Forwards: Ross Stewart, Jack Clarke

Stewart’s got back on the goal trail, which is one glimmer of positivity, and while he started with Defoe on Tuesday I suspect JD will be back on the bench, with Jack Clarke given a run out up front. Clarke has looked very impressive in his limited opportunities and can pull the defence wide. We’ve got to try something!

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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