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Sunderland must unleash Danny Batth against Middlesbrough

Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland return to action in the Championship this afternoon as they take on rivals Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats will be hoping to bounce back from their last match in the division as they were beaten 3-1 by Russell Martin’s Swansea on their own turf.

Sunderland were fighting against the odds after 18 minutes against the Swans as central defender Luke O’Nien was shown a straight red card for a horribly mistimed challenge which led to the away side marching on to all three points.

A win for the hosts against Middlesbrough today will send them level on points with ninth-placed West Bromwich Albion and one point behind Norwich in the final play-off place in the table.

Therefore, there is plenty for the Black Cats to play for and Mowbray must now unleash experienced central defender Danny Batth from the start to give his side an improved chance of winning the match.

O’Nien was given his marching orders against Swansea and will now be suspended for this match. The former Wycombe man has not been in the greatest of form throughout the season so far as he has averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.77 across his 25 appearances in the Championship, which places him 16th in the squad.

Should Danny Batth start?

Yes

Yes

No

No

Batth, meanwhile, has averaged a score of 6.86 in the division and has been the club’s seventh-best performer this season. He was a substitute against the Swans as it was his first game back since the 17th December and Mowbray must unleash him from the start today to replace the suspended O’Nien.

The 6 foot 3 man mountain, whose expected transfer value (xTV) is £526k, came off the bench against Swansea and recorded a Sofascore rating of 6.9 as he assisted Daniel Neil’s goal, won 100% of his ground duels, and made three clearances, two blocks, one tackle, and one interception – as per Sofascore.

Batth, who was once dubbed “outstanding” by journalist Josh Bunting, has been a dominant force on the pitch for Sunderland this season as he has won a whopping 70% of his aerial battles in the Championship, whilst making 4.1 clearances per game for the side.

Whereas, O’Nien has only won 54% of his duels in the air and made 3.1 clearances per match. This indicates, along with their average performance levels, that the 32-year-old veteran would come in as a big upgrade on the versatile defender by starting against Middlesbrough this afternoon, which is why Mowbray must bring him in.