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4-3-3: Sunderland XI vs QPR – Timothée Pembélé is poised to make his debut start for Sunderland against QPR as Sunderland’s quest for a victory is becoming more urgent…



Timothée Pembélé poised to make his debut start for Sunderland against QPR


Sunderland’s quest for a victory is becoming more urgent, along with their growing list of injuries as Mike Dodds seeks his first points since assuming the role of interim head coach last month.


Dodds will be aiming for success on his fifth attempt this weekend as Queens Park Rangers come to the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland eager to break their streak of poor performances following a sixth consecutive loss in the Championship against Southampton last week.


However, Dodds faces an increasingly challenging situation with the team’s injury list showing no signs of improvement. The interim head coach has faced setbacks, including Jack Clarke’s ankle ligament injury during his first week back in charge, and has encountered further obstacles in defense in the weeks that followed.


Mike Dodds faces a crucial decision regarding the inclusion of Dan Ballard in the match against Queens Park Rangers. While it may seem logical to play him if he is fit, Dodds has been cautious in his discussions about the defender, leading me to believe that erring on the side of caution might be more advantageous.


Of course, the importance of Sunderland ending their winless streak cannot be understated, and having Ballard available would certainly improve their chances. However, we must consider the potential consequences. The last thing Sunderland and Dodds need is for Ballard to aggravate his injury and suffer a long-term setback. With eight games remaining after the international break, it is crucial for Ballard and Luke O’Nien to form a solid partnership in defense to alleviate any lingering concerns and secure a strong position in the top half of the Championship table.


While there is a desire to see Ballard on the field, I believe caution will prevail in this situation. As a result, we can expect to see a makeshift back four, with Timothée Pembélé likely taking up the full-back position and Trai Hume moving into center-back in place of Ballard. Hume has previously played in this position as part of a three-man defense, but this will present a different dynamic as he partners with Leo Hjelde. Fellow January signing Callum Styles will then operate at left-back.


Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah appear set to continue as a starting duo, while teenager Chris Rigg is expected to be benched after two consecutive starts. Adil Aouchiche has impressed in recent appearances and could earn his first start since December’s 1-1 draw with Rotherham United. Abdoullah Ba and Romaine Mundle, who scored his first goal for the club, are likely to remain on the wings.


Nazariy Rusyn’s injury setback adds to the team’s challenges, potentially leading to Jobe Bellingham starting in the middle. Mason Burstow’s recent chance against Southampton did not result in success, following Luis Hemir’s two starts against Norwich City and Leicester City.


Despite the circumstances, Sunderland is facing a tough situation with injuries and a resurgent QPRS under Martí Cifuentes. What once seemed like a favorable fixture before the international break now poses a significant challenge for Sunderland.