Chris Coleman's three biggest selection decisions as Sunderland go for back-to-back wins
Sunderland managed back-to-back wins only once last season, beating Bournemouth and Hull to raise tentative hopes that their season could be salvaged.
They are yet to do it in this campaign, with the visit of Steve Cotterill’s Birmingham, bottom of the league, seen as a major opportunity for the Black Cats to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three.
Cotterill’s side have scored just four goals in the 11 games since he took permanent charge, but Coleman is determined to ensure that there is no complacency on Wearside ahead of the game.
So what are they key decisions he’ll be weighing up ahead of kick-off?
Stick with the back five?
Likely to be Coleman’s easiest choice as he weighs up the challenge of landing his third win as Sunderland boss. The change in shape has pushed Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman to the fringes but against Fulham the Black Cats lost none of their threat in the wide areas. Donald Love performed far better in defence than attack but Adam Matthews delivered a series of superb crosses from the other flank. With youngsters Honeyman and Gooch using their energy to move into the flanks, Sunderland had a good balance and always looked dangerous. Defensively, they were very good again and Coleman will surely resist the temptation to tinker.
Go with Ndong from the start?
With the impressive Gooch tiring in the second half, Ndong’s return was welcome, the Gabon midfielder immediately bringing a surge of energy. With Darron Gibson impressing at the base of midfield, Ndong may be able to press higher and in more dangerous areas in the new system. January will bring more transfer speculation but before then Ndong has a big part to play. This weekend it is likely to be in another cameo from the bench. Gooch and Honeyman have earned the opportunity to try and cement their places in the starting XI.
What to do with last week’s supersubs?
Coleman is determined to keep expecations at a realistic level despite the spectacular impact of Maja and Asoro last week. James Vaughan did superbly to wear down the Fulham defence before their introduction and his work ethic means he will have a big part to play under the new manager who demands presence from his centre-forwards. The two teenagers will be expected to attack the space left open in the latter stages of the game again.