Sunderland v Portsmouth: The selection dilemmas facing Jack Ross ahead of key clash
Sunderland host Portsmouth at the Stadium of Light Saturday – with Jack Ross facing a number of selection dilemmas.
Dylan McGeouch and Denver Hume are both hoping to earn recalls having missed the Accrington Stanley game through injury, with Ross having some big decisions.
We examine the key selection issues as Sunderland look to kick-start their promotion push following back-to-back 1-1 draws in League One.
Stick with four at the back?
Judging by his various blunt responses this week, Ross is clearly fed-up with questions about his Sunderland tactic and systems but having tweaked it several times already three games in, the questions are valid.
That said, Ross reverted to a flat-back four against Accrington with the Black Cats running out 3-1 winners and they looked an altogether more settled and balanced side.
Jordan Willis and Alim Ozturk are comfortable in that system and struck up an encouraging partnership, with Conor McLaughlin pushed out to full back with Hume injured.
Does Ross keep faith with Ozturk? The Scot spoke in glowing terms about his display and what he brings. Willis has bags of pace and is improving with each game. The other call will be at left-back, Hume likely to be kept out the spotlight so does McLaughlin start again?
Which midfield combination to play?
Dylan McGeouch and George Dobson have been the preferred combination in central midfield in the league but Ross changed things up for Stanley with captain Grant Leadbitter and Max Power starting, McGeouch missing out through injury.
Power was excellent and has given Ross a real dilemma, does he partner the former Wigan man with either McGeouch or Dobson or revert back to the original pairing? Leadbitter too, when will the club captain get a run out in the league?
And up front?
The switch from wing-backs allows Sunderland to more easily play two strikers, Marc McNulty has impressed with his work-rate and endeavour.
Will Grigg started at the Wham Stadium and had two good chances but is yet to score.
Chris Maguire helped spark a comeback against Ipswich, while Charlie Wyke scored in the Carabao Cup win.
It’s a big call to make for what is a must-win game, in many supporters’ eyes.