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Sunderland v Rotherham - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: We’re predicting FOUR changes to Alex Neil’s team today against Morecambe

It’s all in our own hands, so who will the manager pick today?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Alex Neil sprang a few surprises with his selection for the Rotherham game, and it’s fair to say his lineup and approach attracted a bit of criticism. Still, we – somehow – got a point out of the game, and it could be an incredibly valuable one as it put our play-off fate completely back in our own hands.

We need to win to guarantee ourselves a place in the end-of-season lottery, and I think we’ll see that reflected in the starting XI today.

Here’s how I think we might start the game.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patterson didn’t have a chance with Rotherham’s goal on Tuesday night, but probably could have been a little more dominant as the Millers launched long balls and crosses into our box. Morecambe have a decent attacking threat, and with the context of the game meaning The Shrimps have to win to guarantee survival, he could be in for a busy afternoon.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League 1
Patterson will be in goal for today’s lunchtime kick off
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Defence: Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

Callum Doyle came back into the team on Tuesday night and struggled a bit – albeit against strong opposition. In Alex Neil’s press conference he revealed Cirkin was pain-free and back in training, so I suspect if he’s fit he’ll return to that role on the left-hand side of the defence. Bailey Wright and Danny Batth have been impressive recently – bar Wright’s last-gasp error that gave Rotherham a sniff at the death on Tuesday – and will continue to form a three-man defence.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League 1
Will Cirkin return today, or will Alex Neil err on the side of caution?
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Midfield: Lynden Gooch, Corry Evans, Elliot Embleton, Luke O’Nien, Patrick Roberts

It’s going to be interesting to see who Neil picks in the midfield as it’s the one area of the team in which we’re really overloaded with options. Lynden Gooch was brilliant on the right against Cambridge, and impressed when he switched over to his natural side on Tuesday. Corry Evans is a certain starter – who’d have thought we’d be saying that six weeks ago? – and I think Luke O’Nien will get the nod for his experience and work rate. That leaves one or two spots open. Alex Neil mentioned the need for our passing to be quicker and crisper today than it was on Tuesday, so I think Embleton will be given the chance to play deeper as he did against Cambridge. He was very unlucky to miss out in midweek. On the left, it’s a straight choice between Roberts and Clarke for me, and I would give Roberts the nod.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League 1
Embleton came off the bench on Tuesday, but he could start today
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Forwards: Alex Pritchard, Ross Stewart

Nathan Broadhead struggled on Tuesday, and Neil admitted that in hindsight he probably shouldn’t have played as he’d been touch and go with an injury. We know from what we’ve seen this season that Broadhead’s not one to play through injury – he seems to be the type of player who needs to be 100% ‘right’. With Pritchard coming back to fitness, I expect to see him start the game, and Broadhead take a place on the bench, if he’s fit enough. If we do end up in the play-offs, giving Broadhead some time out to fully recover, plus giving Pritchard a start today, could be beneficial.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League 1
Pritchard made a welcome return to the team in midweek - could he start today?
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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