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Swansea City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Who’ll replace O’Nien and Ballard today against Birmingham?

It’s the question on every Sunderland fan’s lips this morning.

Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

A few big decisions for Tony Mowbray today – and the two biggest come at the back. Dan Ballard and Luke O’Nien have been outstanding this season, but with both of them picking up their fifth bookings of the season, they sit out today’s game against Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham.

Jenson Seelt and Nectar Triantis were both signed in the summer and have yet to start a league game – indeed, Triantis hasn’t clocked up a minute of league action yet – while Aji Alese is still on the sidelines.

Away from the backline, the biggest question marks probably surround Rusyn, Roberts and Bellingham, so it’ll be interesting to see how we line up when the team’s announced at 11.30am!

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patto ended up winning us a point last week with a good penalty save – he’s pretty good when challenged from the spot, but hopefully he doesn’t need to rescue us again today.

Leicester City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Defenders: Trai Hume, Jenson Seelt, Dennis Cirkin, Niall Huggins

There’ll be at least two changes here, with Ballard and O’Nien sidelined. Interestingly, it was Dennis Cirkin – rather than Seelt – who replaced Ballard when the Irish international came off on Saturday, so I reckon we’ll see Cirkin play in the centre, alongside Seelt.

That gives us some nice balance with a left footer there, and enables Seelt to play on his natural side. I think it’d be too much to throw both Triantis and Seelt in there. Hume and Huggins will also play, and we could of course put Huggins at right back, Cirkin left and Hume in the centre – however I believe the way we use Hume tactically will see him stay at full back.

Leicester City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Midfield: Dan Neil, Pierre Ekwah

Dan Neil’s odds on to take the armband in the absence of O’Nien and Ballard, and it’s well deserved, too. Ekwah will partner him once more – I still don’t think the former West Ham man is imposing himself on games as much as we know he can do post injury, so hopefully he can step it up a bit more today.

Swansea City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Attack: Patrick Roberts, Jobe Bellingham, Jack Clarke

Pretty straightforward here, I imagine. If we weren’t playing Birmingham, I think we might have rested Jobe – he should have sat out last week’s long trip in my view – but he’ll be keen to play against his former club.

Either side of him will be Roberts and Clarke – although Abdoullah Ba showed up well in his cameo on the right hand side last week, and could come into contention.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Striker: Nazariy Rusyn

Rusyn should have scored last time out, but was still a threat until Mowbray decided his stupid yellow meant he was too much of a risk to leave on the field. He makes good runs, links the play up well, and I do fancy him to get on the scoresheet today.

Sunderland vs Middlesbrough Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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