Sunderland changes Tony Mowbray might make at Sheffield Wednesday – and the ones he won’t

Sunderland are looking to get back to winning ways at Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.
Sunderland suffered frustration against Cardiff City on Sunday as their four-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end, though Tony Mowbray said afterwards that his team shouldn’t be too disappointed with the performance.

The Black Cats have a chance to quickly bounce back when they travel to face Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.

So what key decisions will Mowbray be weighing up this week and what should fans expect from his selection? Here we take a closer look at the tweaks he might well make, and those he almost certainly won’t.


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Mowbray made clear that he was broadly pleased with large aspects of Sunderland’s performance against Cardiff City, even if the work to overcome sides who set up with a low block at the Stadium of Light remains a long-term project.

Clearly, Sunderland are a side who enjoy when teams attack them and leave space to exploit, which is why Mowbray feels over the last twelve months they have often been more successful on the road. Still, he felt the control his team showed for large parts of the game was greatly encouraging and also said that he didn’t feel fatigue was a significant issue late on even as Cardiff grew into the contest.

Mowbray had gambled by putting on another attacking midfielder and then in the latter stages an additional striker, which did open the game up considerably. In short, then, we shouldn’t expect significant changes at Hillsborough on Friday night.


The head coach despite the frustration of the day feels his side are in a good place and will back them to bounce back.


Whether Mowbray does make any changes may depend first and foremost on whether there is any change in the injury situation.


The head coach was hoping late last week that it would not be long before Pierre Ekwah is fit, and if that proves to be the case then his quality makes him an obvious contender to come straight back into the side.


Jobe Bellingham has deputised impressively in a slightly more withdrawn role during Ekwah’s absence, but Sunday’s game was a good example of why Mowbray has tended to use him high up the pitch in the early stages of the season, where his running power can stretch the opposition defence and also add another goal threat in the box.


Sunderland won’t risk Ekwah if they don’t need to but all the same, he’s one of the first names of the teamsheet for a reason. The other injury decision Mowbray will have to make is around Bradley Dack.

Mowbray said last week that Dack could probably have featured against Cardiff City, but that the club won’t take any risks with the player given his past injuries. That would suggest that he is a strong contender to return on Friday, which would give Mowbray the option to operate without a traditional striker if he feels that suits the game best.


Sunderland’s identity has evolved without one over the last year, and recent weeks have shown that it will be a process to readjust as those summer additions across the frontline find their way into the side on a regular basis. Mason Burstow has shown flashes of quality and an athleticism in the long run, but at the moment his side are struggling to find him in goalscoring positions.


For Friday, the most likely move is for Mowbray to persist with Burstow and perhaps look to give him a breather at some stage next week when Dack is fully up to speed.



The most likely change for Friday night’s game at this stage would be the return of Patrick Roberts.

That is no slight on Abdoullah Ba, who has made big strides forward in the five games he has recently started and who was arguably his side’s biggest threat in the first half against Cardiff City. Ba has settled into the right wing role well and has shown real improvements in his positional discipline and in his ability to retain possession.


Mowbray wanted to reward that by keeping him in the side and allowing him to keep building on that progress, and yet there is arguably only so long you can keep a player of Patrick Roberts’ undoubted ability out of the side.



Both Adil Aouchiche and Nazariy Rusyn have taken their chance to impress this week, with Aouchiche on the scoresheet and Rusyn a strong performer in a 3-1 win over Derby County for the club’s U21 side on Monday night.


That will have pushed both closer to the starting XI, though in Rusyn’s case Mowbray has made it clear that despite his obvious talent, integrating him into the starting XI will be a long-term process as he gets to grip with the language and with the team’s tactical style.

For the foreseeable, he is likely to be used as an impact substitute.


Aouchiche has looked accomplished in his cameos so far and so a full debut is surely in the offing, though Mowbray’s happiness with the performances of his side generally means he will likely have to be patient for another week or two.



It has been a long road back to fitness for Niall Huggins whose ability to come through high-intensity Championship fixtures without error has been mightily impressive.


One of the most encouraging aspects of Sunday’s game was that Huggins was able to find another gear, his all-round performance the best since his injury problems began. Huggins defended well but also showed the dynamism going forward that was such a hallmark of his game. He combined nicely with Jack Clarke and made some good under-lapping runs that times troubled Cardiff City.

That should boost his confidence hugely and is also a very welcome step forward for his head coach, given that neither Dennis Cirkin nor Aji Alese are expected back this week.


Three games in eight days will present another challenge for Huggins and at some stage Mowbray may feel he has to rotate, but for now Huggins has taken possession of the shirt.


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