Mike Dodds explains his surprise Aji Alese selection decision and what's next for Sunderland defender

Sunderland defender Aji Alese will step up his comeback from injury in midweek
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Mike Dodds says that Aji Alese remains on track in his injury recovery despite not being named in the squad for the defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

Alese returned to the squad at Cardiff City on Good Friday but dropped out on Monday, with returning players boosting Dodds' depth in forward areas and leading to him naming Leo Hjelde as his defensive cover on the bench. Dodds has expressed his determination not to rush Alese back into action and risk another setback after an injury-hit year, and explained that it makes more sense for the 23-year-old to complete a full game in midweek. Should he come through that, then he will be in contention for selection when Sunderland face Bristol City at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon.

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"I had a good conversation with Aji in terms of where he's at," Dodds said,

"He's going to play for the Under-21s on Wednesday so there's no issue in terms of his training or being fit. We just felt a 90 minutes on Wednesday would be perfect for him and then he'll be back in contention for Saturday."

Dodds believes the returning senior players will make a difference to the side's prospects for the final six games, but admitted that was little consolation following the chastening 5-1 defeat.

"It doesn't feel like it right now, I'll be honest with you," Dodds said.

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"I think having Jack back, Pat back, Aji isn't a million miles away, the experience of having Dacky around the group, you would hope would propel us in a direction we want to go. But at the moment with that performance, I can't really draw on any positives."

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