Sunderland boss to stick with winning formula

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce

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SUNDERLAND are set to be unchanged for tomorrow’s game against Aston Villa, with Steve Bruce likely to start Stephane Sessegnon on the left wing and Seb Larsson on the right.

In last week’s victory at Bolton, the wide men switched flanks over the course of the game as the manager experimented tactically.

But he is likely to revert to the players’ natural positions at the Stadium of Light tomorrow, with both men attacking down their usual flanks.

Bruce told the Echo: “It was something we looked at because although Stephane is left-footed, he has the ball control and quality to cut inside if needs be and we thought he might be able to cause a lot of damage either going out wide or cutting inside against Bolton.

“At the same time, Seb isn’t really an out-and-out winger who beats his man outrunning them out, so he works equally as well on either wing.

“But we’ve looked at the Bolton game and we looked more balanced in the second half with Sess on the left and Seb on the right.

“So that’s obviously on our mind, as is the wisdom of not changing a winning team.”

If Bruce fields the same starting line-up against Alex McLeish’s Villa, it will give £8million summer signing Connor Wickham his first Stadium of Light start and mean Jack Colback has successfully kept skipper Lee Cattermole and £5m buy Craig Gardner out of the side for the second week in a row.

Bruce said: “As a manager, you’re always looking for what works best and the fact is that both Jack and Connor have deserved their chances.

“Lee and Craig are top players and their chances will undoubtedly come, because they’ve got big roles to play this season.

“But Jack hasn’t put a foot wrong and he’s proved his value with his tackling, his workrate and his passing, which I thought was superb at Bolton.

“As for Connor, he wanted to be given a chance to start games.

“We’ve tried to look after him as much as possible, because he’s still only 18, and it was important we bedded him in gradually. We’ve still got to be very careful with him because we’ve got to nurture him as a player and protect his confidence.

“But he was very solid and I think he’s going to be some player in two or three years time. Even at Bolton though, there were good signs and his sheer physical presence alone asks questions of defenders.”