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Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Who did Alex Neil pick in his last team before legging it at the first opportunity?

Allegedly our (presumably by now) former head coach picked the team before deserting the lads. Will whoever takes charge today stick with the same team?

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Well. What the actual &%$& has happened here? Forty-eight hours ago we were all confidently looking forward to not just today’s game but the future, with an excellent manager that finally felt ‘right’ for Sunderland.

This morning, we wake up to that all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment tainted, this time tainted with anger, as he’s upped sticks and left at the first opportunity.

The timing of this is a disgrace. To walk out on the eve of a game is pathetic. However, that’s what’s happened and whoever is in the dugout today (please, not Dodds again) has to get the lads up for this. They, like us, bought into Alex Neil, and to be left high and dry by him will have no doubt rocked them.

However, whether we like it or not, Neil’s the past now.

We need to focus on what’s important – getting points on the board and avoiding being sucked into a relegation battle this season.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patterson made some cracking saves last week and will start today between the sticks.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light
Patto will continue in nets
Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Defence: Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

O’Nien started in place of Dan Ballard last Saturday but struggled, and we looked better when Bailey Wright came on to replace him.

Wright’s probably been a bit unlucky not to start so far this season, and I think he’ll come in on the right-hand side of the defence. Cirkin was excellent in that position on the left last week, and Batth – bar one hairy moment – marshalled the defence well.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Cirkin is performing well on the left side of defence
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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

After impressing as a sub against Sheffield United, Jay Matete had an opportunity to stake his claim for a place in the team but was withdrawn at half time due to his yellow card.

His replacement, Corry Evans, showed just what he brings to the team, and if fit he’ll come straight back in. Dan Neil, too, will likely return to the starting XI after suspension, while Gooch, Pritchard and Clarke pick themselves.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light
I expect Corry Evans will return to the line up today
Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Attackers: Ellis Simms, Ross Stewart

Another good performance from these two last weekend, and they’ll surely line up today. They’re such a danger – I just hope we’re naming the two of them in our team after this week...

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Stewart was class again last weekend.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


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