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Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Starting XI: Sunderland v Luton Town - ‘OK lads, who fancies playing at the back?’

Two more injuries to contend with – so who’ll be in our line up today?

Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

We’re really getting down to bare bones at the back, with Dennis Cirkin and Lynden Gooch both coming off at Preston and rated as doubtful for today. I reckon Gooch will make it but Cirkin won’t, so here’s how I think we’ll line up today...

Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Another clean sheet for Patterson last weekend – another two or three more wouldn’t go amiss!

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - The Hawthorns Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images

Defence: Lynden Gooch, Trai Hume, Luke O’Nien, Joe Anderson

Lynden Gooch and Dennis Cirkin both went off on Sunday, and Cirkin’s looked the most serious – he was in a boot after the game and I’d think it’s unlikely he’ll be risked for the first leg. I thought Joe Anderson did really well when he came on – yes, it was essentially a no-pressure situation for him at that stage, but I think he’ll come in today, playing that left sided defence/full back role. I’d be surprised if Gooch didn’t recover – he won’t want to miss this, especially as captain – while Hume and O’Nien thankfully as far as we are aware are still fit! If we don’t pick Anderson we could go with something like we started the second half at Preston, with Roberts and Clarke notionally playing as wing backs, but I think that would be an unnecessary risk in the first leg of two-legged tie. There are also rumours that Alese and/or Ballard could be fit – however, if they are nearing any sort of fitness, I suspect we’d keep them in reserve ahead of the second leg.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship
Will Joe Anderson make his first start?
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Midfield: Pierre Ekwah, Dan Neil

What a performance from Pierre Ekwah last week – he’s getting better by the outing and if only he’d managed to score that chance he’d have registered a 10/10 performance. He’s made a central midfield place his own, and Dan Neil’s a certainty too. It’s a bit unfortunate for Edouard Michut, who’s suddenly been relegated back to third choice here, but it’s testament to Ekwah’s performances that that’s the case.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attack: Patrick Roberts, Amad, Jack Clarke, Joe Gelhardt

I think it’s got to be same again up front, with Roberts, Amad, Clarke and Gelhardt making up the front four – however, Alex Pritchard has been instrumental recently. In fact, I don’t think we’ve scored a goal without him on the pitch since Amad’s penalty in the first half at home to Hull on Good Friday. However, I don’t see Mowbray leaving out one of Roberts, Amad, Clarke or Gelhardt for this one – but I think Pritchard will start in the away leg.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Amad goes again at the Stadium of Light!
Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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