Sam Allardyce has reported no fresh injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s must win home game against West Brom. That said, a few players are reportedly not quite ‘fresh’ and may be carrying a niggle or two. There are no excuses though, we’ve had 2 weeks to prepare for this and Big Sam can pick from as near a full squad as he is ever likely to get.
Established as first choice centre back, Kone dropped out of the international fixtures citing a calf problem. Reportedly fit and available, maintaining Kone in the starting line-up is essential.
Another calf problem, Kaboul has been in training this week. It’s either him or O’Shea to line up next to Kone in the heart of defence.
Reportedly fit following a knock, Jones may be required to offer options in defence against his former side.
An ankle ligament problem keeps Duncan on the casualty list. Big Sam reported during the week though that he was progressing better than expected and may make it back in time for the home game against Arsenal in 3 weeks’ time.
Freshly recovered from a hamstring injury, Eboue was in full training for most of this week. With some calling for the former Arsenal full back to start...oh, hang on.
Strength on the bench will be key
With recent Sunderland performances dropping off a cliff from 70 minutes onwards Big Sam will be looking to the bench to offer options in shoring up the side when needed. Some have suggested DeAndre Yedlin may be jaded after featuring for the USA during the week but with the unfortunate Eboue episode limiting his options at right back it may be that Big Sam looks to Billy Jones to provide resource in consolidating defence should the young American tire.
Sebastian Larsson played 45 minutes in both of Sweden’s friendlies this week and now fully fit following knee ligament surgery he offers a fully refreshed outlook combined with a desire to feature and cement his place at Euro 2016.
Lee Cattermole will be chomping at the bit and with his leadership of previous relegation-escape sides he offers options should Jan Kirchhoff or Yann M’Villa show signs of heavy legs as the game wears on.
The rest tend to pick themselves
With Mannone in goal and Patrick van Aanholt lining up at left back. Big Sam spoke of his selection dilemma during the week at centre back with a decision required on whether to start Kaboul or O’Shea. Kaboul looks the more likely with O’Shea offering an experienced back up on the bench.
In midfield we fully expect to see Borini and Khazri lining up out wide. There may be options in-game to switch them depending on how West Brom line up. It won’t be clear until the teams are announced whether Sessegnon will make it, so we may see James McClean and Craig Gardener lining up for the Baggies out wide. If Allardyce opts for one up front expect Jack Rodwell to feature alongside M’Villa in the middle. With Kirchhoff operating behind them, Rodwell offers a greater presence going forward than Cattermole or Larsson for this one.
I know I’m still in a minority but I still can’t help but feel Dame N’doye offers us an option up front alongside Defoe should the ageing Baggies centre half pairing of Olsson and McAuley get the nod from Tony Pulis. It may be an option Big Sam looks to if a breakthrough is not forthcoming later in the game.
Three points is a minimum requirement and there are no excuses. It’s going to be a nervy tight game with all of us inside the SoL fully ‘clenched’ and keeping an occasional eye on events down in Norwich.