Analysis - Will it be Kaboul or O’Shea in defence for Sunderland at Leicester?

Younes Kaboul
Younes Kaboul
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The selection options facing Dick Advocaat for Sunderland’s Premier League curtain-raiser are scarce... to put it kindly.

For all the sound-bites about competition in the squad, it was telling that Advocaat only gave a run-out to two of his substitutes here in Germany yesterday.

Now, had Steven Fletcher or Wes Brown been fit, they perhaps would have been granted a minute or 30 from the bench.

And the addition of a couple of fresh faces this week would undoubtedly be welcomed.

But Advocaat has clearly largely decided upon his starting XI for the trip to Leicester next Saturday and was using the clash at Hannover 96 as a dress rehearsal.

Yet does that mean one significant absentee from the team-sheet at the King Power Stadium?

John O’Shea has been a mainstay of Sunderland’s back-line for the last four years and while he is guilty of the odd rick, the defence has suffered when he has been absent.

But having turned 34, it would take some doing for O’Shea to repeat his participation from last season when he started all bar one of Sunderland’s games.

In the capture of Younes Kaboul too, Advocaat has - providing the Frenchman is fit - a quality alternative to partner Sebastian Coates, who undoubtedly deserves to start the season after his form in April and May.

So will O’Shea find himself on the bench against Leicester?

Kaboul looked good against Hannover, physical, quick and spot-on with his timing - no mean feat given he had previously only played 45 minutes in pre-season and hasn’t started a competitive game since January.

It is clearly in Advocaat’s thoughts to throw the ex-Spurs man straight into the picture from the off, despite his recent lack of games.

O’Shea was not so dominant when he replaced Kaboul just before the hour mark, albeit he was farcically penalised for the late spot-kick awarded to Hannover, before Costel Pantilimon came to the rescue.

But that now seems the only poser for Advocaat ahead of the opening day.

In using Jermain Defoe as a central striker, with Jeremain Lens and Adam Johnson either side of him, Advocaat is playing everyone in their natural and most effective roles.

Even if Sunderland can sign and seal a move for Yann M’Vila and Leroy Fer, they will just be alternatives to Jack Rodwell, Seb Larsson or Lee Cattermole in the central midfield trio.

Sunderland are hardly short of on-field leaders if O’Shea is on the bench - Cattermole, Larsson and Kaboul all offer some big presence.

But it would be a statement of how Advocaat is looking to change the complexion of this side if he opted for a changing of the guard in defence.