Danny Batth’s injury is a big blow – the centre-back has been in imperious form this season and his absence is a bit of a hammer blow. While the club’s been rightly criticised for failing to bring in enough up front in both transfer windows, having three centre-backs out for the season is just bad luck. Tony Mowbray revealed in his press conference that Edouard Michut is back in training, but Joe Gelhardt is playing with an ankle injury, so I suspect we could see something along the lines of the team that played at Cardiff on Easter Monday.
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Same again in goal today! Patto will be looking to add to his 13 clean sheets this lunchtime.
Defence: Trai Hume, Luke O’Nien, Dennis Cirkin
I think we’ll go with a three-man defence of Hume, O’Nien and Cirkin today, after the latter missed out in midweek due to suspension. If we wanted to go more defensive, Joe Anderson could come in, with Cirkin playing wingback (or if we wanted to play a flat back four he could well partner O’Nien), but I suspect we’ll go with this back three – as long as Luke isn’t whisked back to the north east to be present at the birth of his child!
Midfield: Lynden Gooch, Eduoard Michut, Dan Neil, Jack Clarke
Gooch and Clarke could be deployed as wingbacks - albeit it’s often a little lopsided with Clarke given more attacking freedom than Gooch. In the centre, Dan Neil seems guaranteed his place, and alongside him, I reckon we’ll see Michut back in the side. Part of me thinks we could go for Ekwah for his physicality, but I’ll hedge my bets and go with the Frenchman, who missed out in midweek.
Attack: Amad, Abdoullah Ba, Alex Pritchard
Amad’s a certainty, but the positions alongside him are up for grabs. Gelhardt had probably his best game in a Sunderland shirt on Tuesday, but his injury means we’re likely to let him sit this one out. Roberts didn’t show much in midweek either, so I think Prichard will retain his place in the XI, albeit in a more advanced role, and Abdoullah Ba will start in attack. He’s been strangely missing over recent weeks, but started the wins at Norwich and Cardiff in that role, and I expect to see him there again today.