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Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Sunderland vs QPR – will Alex Neil name an unchanged side this afternoon?

No one really did anything to force their way into the gaffer’s thinking on Wednesday really, did they?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Alex Neil sprang a surprise with the inclusion of Ellis Simms from the off on Saturday, but it quickly reaped its rewards. It was a pretty good performance overall – albeit we looked a bit suss defensively – so will we see an unchanged line-up or will the manager change things up again?

While we did line up with a back three on Saturday, we looked shaky in the wingback positions, and I wouldn't be surprised if we went with a back four – particularly as QPR will probably start with a back four. Regardless, even if we start with a three, with this 11, we can switch Gooch to right-back, push Cirkin over to a more orthodox left-back position, and play Pritchard from the right of midfield to go something resembling 4-4-2.

Here’s how we might line up today.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patterson had another decent game on Saturday – I don’t think any blame could be apportioned to him for either goal – and while Bass did ok on Wednesday, his loose pass did create the attack that led to the second goal, so he’s not forced his way into serious consideration as yet.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship
Patto will be back between the sticks this afternoon
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Defence: Dan Ballard, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

While we looked a little dubious defensively on Saturday, I don’t think that was because of the back three that started the game, so any change here would be a bit of a surprise, even if we go to a back four. Ballard looks a good, solid addition, Batth has great experience, and Cirkin’s settling into championship life pretty well.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Ballard has settled in quickly and should line up again today
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Lynden Gooch, Corry Evans, Dan Neil, Alex Pritchard, Jack Clarke

Our wing backs aren’t natural defenders, but offensively they’ve done pretty well, and Alex Neil admitted during the week he’s a little less concerned about defensive solidity this season and more concerned about what we do going forward. Alex Pritchard was excellent on Saturday in the second half particularly, and he’ll be hoping to produce something similar today. In midfield, Dan Neil showed some quality moments on Saturday, and he should line up alongside Corry Evans today.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship
Clarke will be hoping for another goalscoring outing at the Stadium of Light today.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Attackers: Ellis Simms, Ross Stewart

After Saturday’s three-goal haul, it’d take a brave manager to split up the Simms and Stewart strikeforce – and I think we’ll see them line up together from the off today. Simms had a great debut – he takes shots early, and that’s an excellent attribute for a forward that’s not that common in today’s game for whatever reason. It was great for Stewart to get off the mark at championship level on Saturday, and he’ll be looking to build on that this afternoon too.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Stewart got off the mark with a lovely header on Saturday
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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