Alex Neil explains pre-season team selections as Sunderland boss prepares to make changes against Bradford

Alex Neil says places are still very much up for grabs ahead of Sunderland’s season opener against Coventry.

The Black Cats are less than two weeks away from their first Championship fixture of the campaign, with three more pre-season friendlies set to take place in that time.

Neil named a strong starting XI as Sunderland beat Dundee United 2-0 on Saturday, but says that isn’t a reflection of the team that could start against Coventry.

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The Black Cats will travel to League Two side Bradford on Tuesday evening, with Neil set to make changes to his team.

Sunderland players at Dundee United. Picture by Frank Reid

“That team that I picked does not have any bearing on what the first team of the season will be” said Neil after the win at Dundee.

“What it was, was five lads, six including Patto (Anthony Patterson) played 90 minutes in the last game and that’s now nine lads that have played 90 minutes in this game.

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“The rest of the lads will certainly play 90 minutes on Tuesday so that will be everybody ticked off 90 minutes and then we’re going to have three games left between now and the start of the season which is good. We can top each of them up in terms of what they need for minutes.

“Come the start of the season, broadly, they really should be pretty much equal or as close to that as we can.”

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Sunderland are set to play in extremely hot weather conditions against Bradford due to a heatwave across the UK.

Yet Neil says he’s not overly concerned about the situation, after Sunderland spent eight days training in Portugal earlier this month.

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“The likelihood is the first month of the season is going to be played in high temperatures, it always is,” Neil added.

“You can guarantee on the first day of pre-season when you’ve had a good pre-season, it’s baking hot as a player.

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“If anybody was at the Portugal game against Roma, that was certainly baking hot.”

Following Sunderland’s trip to Bradford they will face trips to Accrington Stanley (Saturday, July 23) and Hartlepool (Monday, July 25) before the Coventry fixture at the Stadium of Light.