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A half fit Dan Ballard, or someone else - what should Sunderland do on Saturday?

Having missed out on playing for Northern Ireland with a hamstring injury, Dan Ballard has returned to Wearside ahead of Saturday. Would you risk him at Plymouth, or go with a different option?

Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images


Martin Wanless says...

Dan Ballard is an exceptional defender, and we saw last season just how big an impact his extended period on the sidelines had on us. He was a huge miss, and we can’t take any risks with him.

His injury record is the thing that’ll cause top clubs to pause for thought, and it’s important we don’t exacerbate any problem he has presently - as it’s a muscle problem there’s a big chance he could make it much worse.

Seelt did pretty well last time out - I didn’t see a performance worthy of ousting O’Nien from central defence as some seem to have witnessed, but I did see a lot of promise and I’d have no problem if he started alongside the skipper on Saturday.

Really, we can’t take risks with Ballard, so for me it’s a pretty straightforward choice.

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

Jon Guy says...

It would be silly to play Ballard if he is injured.

We have to look at the longer term. Play him when he’s unfit, and what might have been two weeks out can easily turn into the rest of the season. Seelt and O’Nien would be the likely option, and we should go with the players who are fit.

We are still waiting on the return of Alese, who again is paying the price of playing when not 100%. Hopefully, Seelt and O’Nien have been working together and played in the behind doors friendly versus Backpool where we kept a clean sheet.

It wouldn’t surprise me if looking at a new combination at the back was a big part of agreeing to that match. Bring Dan back when he’s fit, and not before.

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

Phil West says...

Personally, I’d be tempted to err on the side of caution (and experimentation, to a degree) and go for the O’Nien and Seelt combination if Ballard isn’t fully fit.

His tendency to pick up knocks when playing for his country is strange, and I don’t think it’s worth risking the Northern Ireland international if there’s a chance of him breaking down again this weekend.

With the festive schedule looming large, Ballard will be key for us, and we need to ensure he’s kept fresh and healthy.

Personally, I think a pairing of O’Nien and Seelt could work quite well.

Given that it was his first start and amid all the pre-match talk about how he would handle things, I thought the Dutchman acquitted himself well against Birmingham and with the experience of O’Nien beside him, he should be a lot calmer and composed in key moments.

I also think their respective qualities will gel nicely and could be a winning formula against Plymouth.

Seelt has a slightly more combative approach and O’Nien’s ability on the ball is well-known, so I’d have no issues if Tony Mowbray opted to pair them up at the back tomorrow.

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