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Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Who will line up for tonight’s game against Sheffield Wednesday?

How will Alex Neil set the team up in front of the biggest crowd of the season?

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

Nathan Broadhead would have been a certain starter tonight if fully fit, but doubts over his fitness could well force Alex Neil to adopt a formation that has more bodies in midfield – which may not be a bad thing.

It’d be nice to take a good lead to Hillsborough, but I think Alex Neil will be of the mindset that any lead will be a good lead, so I expect to see us set up something like this.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Another clean sheet last time out for Patterson – and if he has 90 minutes as quiet as he had last weekend we’ll all be very happy. Somehow, I doubt that will be the case.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Defence: Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

After playing against Rotherham, Callum Doyle was dropped altogether last weekend – I think it’s fair to assume that if Neil was thinking of playing him in the play-offs, he’d have been given the 90 minutes last weekend, unless he was injured of course. Dennis Cirkin was back in training last week, so if he’s fit I would expect him to play alongside the experienced Wright and Batth.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League 1
Danny Batth’s looked more like the player we thought we were getting since coming back into the team
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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

Once again, we have plenty of options here, and it’s the area of the pitch that Alex Neil really faces his most difficult decisions. Elliot Embleton’s been a revelation playing deeper in midfield, and I think we’ll see him in that position alongside Corry Evans tonight – he’s got the composure and technique to calm the game down, which could be invaluable in a white-hot atmosphere. I think Luke O’Nien will be the one to push on a bit - sitting on Barry Bannan if he’s fit, and joining forces with Pritchard to ensure Wednesday’s focal point is not given any time on the ball.

The left wing-back slot worries me a bit – Roberts did well there against an awful Cambridge side, Clarke’s been out there for games, but none of them really fill me with confidence. As a wildcard, Dan Neil could play there, but I think if Neil had any intention of that he’d have tried him there at some point before now.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light
I’d push O’Nien on to Barry Bannan, if he’s fit
Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Forwards: Alex Pritchard, Ross Stewart

With a late decision to be made on Broadhead, I think the Everton loanee will be on the bench at best – which could work well as his pace could be important away from home, so if there’s a chance he could be fully fit for Monday, let’s leave him sidelined for now.

Tonight, I’d go with Alex Pritchard playing just off Ross Stewart. Pritchard’s a class act, and by pushing him into that free role buzzing around Stewart he could cause some damage. Let’s hope!

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League 1
Pritchard could be vital tonight
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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