Burnley v Sunderland: Defensive dilemma facing Tony Mowbray amid injury crisis
Sunderland return to Championship action this Friday against a Burnley side top of the Championship and in outstanding form. An already challenging task for Tony Mowbray and his side has been made potentially even more daunting with injuries mounting in defensive areas.
Sunderland’s injury issues have been some of the worst in the Championship this season, and multiple members of the Black Cats’ defence may be missing.
The latest injury setback to the Black Cats’ defence is Dan Ballard. The centre back was forced off the pitch early in the second half on international duty with Northern Ireland on Sunday.
Speaking to Viaplay after the match Ballard said that he doesn’t think the injury is too serious, but with Friday’s trip to Turf Moor now just days away he is a major doubt.
It has been confirmed by the club that Aji Alese is out for the rest of the season. Alese has been severely unlucky this season when it comes to injuries, picking up a thigh problem in the Black Cats’ defeat to Stoke City earlier this month.
This injury is the third Alese has sustained this season, after both ankle and foot injuries meant he has missed a significant chunk of Sunderland’s games this season.
Niall Huggins’ return could be coming at a crucial time in the midst of so many injuries stifling Sunderland’s defence. Though unlikely to be deemed ready to start as soon as the game against Burnley, it is believed Huggins will feature in Sunderland’s first team before the end of the season and he might be needed to join the squad if the injury situation does not improve.
The full back featured for the club’s Under-21s on Sunday, March 19, but Tony Mowbray will not be rushing him back into action.
Left back Dennis Cirkin has given a positive update on his health recently. Cirkin was knocked out against Millwall in February, although he has featured intermittently since, he showed symptoms of concussion and has been absent since the defeat to Rotherham.
The defender has recently said he hopes to be back soon and has taken some part in training in recent weeks. Cirkin could feature on Friday, even if it is off the bench.
Who could Tony Mowbray choose to fill in?
Lynden Gooch has played his part in defence for Tony Mowbray’s side due to the injury issues. He could be an option on the right as Huggins remains a doubt to make the trip to Burnley.
Depending on the formation Mowbray chooses to use, it could see Luke O’Nien at left-back once more. Danny Batth is adaptable enough to play alongside anyone, if Cirkin isn’t fit enough to start.
January recruit Joe Anderson could have a chance to show his quality ahead of next season. Trai Hume, Ballard’s international compatriot, is an excellent option for Mowbray to call upon on Friday.
Hume has started 15 games in the Championship this season and it’s likely he will feature a lot more between now and the end of the season, due to the amount of injuries in the back line.