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Sunderland Sign French U21 International Isaac Lihadji From Lille

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Starting XI: Who will line up for the lads today against Hull? Here’s our prediction...

Will the gaffer give some fringe players a chance with one eye on next season, or will he go with his ‘strongest’ team?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tony Mowbray sprang a surprise last week with the selection of Pierre Ekwah in the centre of midfield to partner Dan Neil. This was likely a consequence of Edouard Michut’s international travels in the days prior rather than anything else but, with Mowbray having said a few weeks ago he’d begin to start giving those fringe players a chance towards the end of the season, it does create a few questions ahead of today’s fixture.

Of course, we’ve got injuries to contend with – in addition to the long-termers, Ballard’s still missing and Pritchard has had a niggle this week, but seems to be fit enough to be in contention.

With a trip to Cardiff on Monday, it’s likely we’ll take a two-game approach to team selection, especially given the number of players returning from injury, and the significant number of games players such as Dan Neil have played already this season.

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Our number one became the first visiting keeper since Ederson to keep a clean sheet at Turf Moor last week. In truth, he wasn’t troubled too much, but did everything he needed to with confidence. He’s already attracting Premier League interest, and another good game in front of the Sky cameras will only see his price tag rise.

Sunderland Open Training
A certainty in goal
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Defence: Trai Hume, Luke O’Nien, Danny Batth, Lynden Gooch

Bar Dennis Cirkin’s return to fitness, we’ve not got a great deal of choice in the backline. Lynden Gooch got man of the match last week, and it would be harsh to drop him after such a good display. I suspect we might see Cirkin come into the team for Cardiff, but for this afternoon I reckon it’ll be Gooch, with Hume, O’Nien and Batth completing the back four.

Burnley v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Would it be too harsh to drop Gooch after his MOTM performance last time out?
Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Midfield: Edouard Michut, Pierre Ekwah

Pierre Ekwah grew into the game on Friday at Burnley, and I’d like to see him retain his place this afternoon, He could partner Edouard Michut – Mowbray seems to like the PSG loanee a lot, and with Dan Neil having been a virtual ever-present this season, we could see him get a breather before returning to the line up on Monday.

Sunderland Open Training
Ekwah grew into the game last week – could we see him get another start today?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attack: Issac Lihadji, Patrick Roberts, Amad, Jack Clarke

This is where we have the most choice and the most room for change – and I think we could see Issac Lihadji get his first start this afternoon. Roberts and Amad could play centrally, with Lihadji and Clarke on the wings, which will be intriguing to watch. Pritchard and Gelhardt would be the two players to sit out in that scenario – they’re both at their best when we need to press teams from the front, so I think we may prefer to have them firing on all cylinders for Monday’s fixture.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship
Could Issac Lihadji get his first start today?
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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