Sunderland will host Preston North End at the Stadium of Light this afternoon, and Tony Mowbray will be hoping that, despite his striker injury crisis, his team will have enough creativity to take all three points from the clash.
The Black Cats dropped into sixth place after Luton Town secured a win against Hull City last night, but a victory today would put them in good stead to continue to compete for a spot in the playoffs, and, if results go their way they, could even close the gap more between themselves and the automatic promotion places.
In terms of injuries, it is no secret that Sunderland are struggling, as Mowbray confirmed that Ellis Simms may now need to be scanned by his parent club, Everton, to determine a suitable timeframe for his recovery, whilst Ross Stewart remains sidelined with a thigh injury.
However, there is a silver lining as Dennis Cirkin has returned to full training and is in contention to start this afternoon, which will be a big relief to the manager as they head into the game against Preston.
With that being said, this is how we at Football FanCast expect Sunderland to line up on Saturday afternoon…
We predict that Mowbray will make just two changes to his team that picked up a draw against Watford earlier this month.
The first change we expect to see is Cirkin reprising his role as left-back alongside an otherwise unchanged back four of Danny Batth, Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch.
The second and final change we predict is the inclusion of Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo in the starting line-up, replacing 23-year-old Elliot Embleton, to form the forward threat alongside Alex Pritchard.
The £28k-per-week talent – who was hailed “class” by Mowbray – has made three substitute appearances so far this season but could be handed his first start at the Stadium of Light this afternoon to freshen up the attacking threat – with Diallo offering a different creative perspective that could really pay off.
The Sunderland boss may have concerns with no strikers currently available, especially when the Championship table is still so tight, however, they should have enough quality to beat Preston who haven’t won in their last three.