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Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Bristol City vs Sunderland – who’ll play today?

Will Alex Neil stick or twist this afternoon at Ashton Gate? We have a crack at guessing who the gaffer will pick for our first away game back in the championship.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Alex Neil described himself as ‘content’ with our performance and result on Sunday against Coventry, and today we head south west to take on Bristol City at Ashton Gate. Neil surprised some – me included – by starting with a back three on Sunday, and it’ll be interesting whether he sticks with that formation or reverts to a flat back four.

Here’s how we might line up today.


Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patterson did well on Sunday. As well as his excellent first-half save he commanded his box pretty well and had no chance with Coventry’s goal. A good showing in his first Championship game, and he’ll need to produce more of the same today.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Defence: Daniel Ballard, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

Ballard did well on his debut – although he’s got to watch his shirt pulling – and Batth and Cirkin also had solid games. The system we played was a bit of a lopsided one, with the three moving across the pitch to allow either wing back to push up and sometimes dropping back into a more conventional four. It worked pretty well – the goal was an example of the attacking threat the two wingbacks can pose – but I just don’t see it as a long-term system for us. Still, I’d be surprised if we changed it too much from last week.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship
Ballard had a tough battle with Gyokeres on Sunday, but acquitted himself well
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Midfield: Lynden Gooch, Corry Evans, Elliot Embleton, Luke O’Nien, Jack Clarke

After the first 30 minutes on Sunday I thought we were overrun in midfield, and that’s a bit of a concern approaching today’s game. Bar a few loose passes, Corry Evans did pretty well, however, Dan Neil barely got a kick in the second half particularly, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drop to the bench today. Luke O’Nien and Jay Matete are the players who could replace him, and O’Nien’s probably more likely to get the nod, although he’s lucky to be available today – he was a bit lucky not to be given a red for a horrible tackle in the dying moments on Sunday. Out wide, Gooch and Clarke will probably continue. I’ve listed them as midfielders as they’re both naturally attacking, but they’ll both have defensive duties too.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light
Clarke did a decent job defensively, but was another who could have seen red on another day.
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Attackers: Alex Pritchard, Ross Stewart

Pritchard did really well on Sunday, turning in the type of performance we became accustomed to last season, and he’ll start alongside Stewart today. Stewart didn’t get much of a look in last week but he’s a threat and will be desperate to get on the scoresheet.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship
Pritchard can be a huge player for us this season
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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