Sam Allardyce expects to shuffle his pack during the decisive final week of the season, with Sunderland facing three games in the space of eight days.
Allardyce has named an unchanged line-up for Sunderland’s last five outings – the longest run that the side has been left settled since the Great Escape in May 2014.
We’ll probably change the side more in these three games than we have done since the turn of the yearSam Allardyce
But that streak is due to end during the finale to the campaign – potentially starting with Saturday’s visit of Chelsea.
Sunderland’s performance in last weekend’s draw at Stoke City was arguably their worst of 2016, with Allardyce turning to his substitutes bench before the hour mark at the Britannia Stadium.
And with the physical – and mental – demands of three critical encounters, Allardyce is braced to make changes to keep Sunderland’s survival bid on track.
“We’ll probably change the side more in these three games than we have done since the turn of the year,” he said.
“Since the players have all been fit, then some have been frustrated.
“I changed the team every week when I first got here, and nobody knew who we were playing, where they were playing and when they were playing on the basis that we were rubbish.
“But since the turn of the year and we’ve got better and better, the form of the players has hit a level where I’ve found it very difficult to drop them.”
The likes of Seb Larsson. Duncan Watmore and Jack Rodwell will come into Allardyce’s thinking, while £8million summer signing Jeremain Lens wasn’t even on the bench at Stoke.
Allardyce admits he’s had some disgruntled fringe figures on his hands over recent weeks as the starting line-up has more or less picked itself.
But Allardyce has challenged them to prove a point to him and make the most of their opportunity when it arrives.
“The (current side) have played well enough to stay in the team, which causes an under-current of very frustrated players in the squad,” he added.
“That’s great, it’s really healthy for a football club and for a manager.
“How do you deal with that player whose frustrated at not being in the team?
“Well, you say to him, when you get that chance, you have to be ready because you might get a chance on Saturday after five minutes.
“If you’re not ready, you’ll let yourself down and you’ll be straight out the team again.
“The challenge for the frustrated lads is be ready and when you get the chance, grasp it with both hands.
“If they do that, then they stay in the team.”