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Sunderland: Tony Mowbray must unleash Daniel Ballard against Blackburn

Sunderland will be attempting to win for the first time in three Championship matches as they host Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light today.

The Black Cats return to action after Christmas and now come up against Tony Mowbray’s former team, who are fresh off the back of a 2-0 win over Norwich in their last outing, on Wearside.

A win for the hosts could move to them to within one point of the play-off places if results go their way, although they could also be three points above the drop zone by the end of the matchday.

They will be competing without one of their key players for this match, though, after Danny Batth suffered a blow set to keep him out of the next few games.

Ahead of this clash, Mowbray told journalist Phil Smith: “Danny Batth isn’t training but it’s not a bad injury. We think it’ll be a couple of weeks.”

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Sunderland striker Ross Stewart in action

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The former Stoke City man came off in the first half of the 1-1 draw with Hull last time out and will now miss his first league game of the season, having started every single one of the previous 23.

Batth was recently dubbed Sunderland’s best player and “leader” this season by journalist Josh Bunting and this emphasises the potential blow that his injury could inflict on the team.

He has won 66% of his individual duels and made 1.5 tackles and interceptions per game in the Championship, whilst averaging a Sofascore rating of 6.86. The 32-year-old has been a rock at the back and Mowbray must now replace him by finally unleashing Daniel Ballard from the start.

Kristjaan Speakman brought the youngster in on a permanent deal from Premier League side Arsenal in the summer. He has not started a match since the 13th August due to an injury he suffered against Queens Park Rangers on that day.

Should Daniel Ballard start?

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Yes

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However, the 23-year-old did come off the bench to replace Batth against Hull and caught the eye with a promising display. As per Sofascore, he won 75% (3/4) of his ground duels and made four clearances, two blocks, one interception, and two tackles.

Ballard did give away the penalty that Hull missed in the match but it was an incredibly harsh decision from the referee after the defender appeared to win the ball, whilst also taking out the man, in the box.

The centre-back, who Bunting once described as “commanding” and “powerful“, has been rarely-seen this season, due to his injury issues, but his performance last time out showcased the quality that he possesses, as he made a number of vital defensive contributions.

Therefore, the colossus must finally be unleashed from the start against Blackburn to replace Batth in the starting line-up as he showed against Hull that he is over his injury and ready to make an impact for the club in the Championship.