Scout report: What can Sunderland expect from Rochdale this weekend?

Rochdale manager Keith Hill.
Rochdale manager Keith Hill.
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Sunderland welcome Rochdale to the Stadium of Light this weekend - but what should we expect from tomorrow's opponents?

We take a closer look at the key areas ahead of the League One meeting.

What system will Rochdale play?

The Dale have tinkered with their system throughout the campaign, but appeared to find a combination that worked during their 3-0 victory over Gillingham last Saturday.

After settling on a back four, manager Keith Hill deployed an interchangeable 4-2-3-1 formation against the Gills, with towering strikers Calvin Andrew and Aaron Wilbraham out wide and top scorer Ian Henderson in a deeper position.

Who are Rochdale’s key players?

Henderson, 33, scored his first career hat-trick last weekend, taking the striker onto six league goals this campaign.

Young defender Harrison McGahey, 22, has also been a mainstay for the Dale this season, starting every league game in defence.

Do Rochdale have any injury worries?

The visitors have no fresh injury problems ahead of their trip to the Stadium of Light.

Goalkeeper Josh Lillis returned to the starting line up last weekend, while midfielder Jordan Williams was used as a late substitute after recovering from a knee problem.

Who is Rochdale’s manager and what can we expect from them?

Hill is into his second spell at the club after leaving Rochdale for Barnsley in 2011.

He was reappointed at the Crown Oil Arena, then called Spotland, in 2013 and has been at the club ever since.

Hill has proved himself to be a pragmatic manager and encourages his side to be imposing and physical to get results.

“It’s up to me to gather as many points as I possibly can," said Hill after last weekend's win.

"Is it the way I want to play football? No. Is it the best way to beat an opponent? Previous history would suggest so."

What form have Rochdale been in?

The Dale have moved up to 13th in League One after a mini three-game unbeaten run.

A convincing win over Gillingham and 3-3 draw with Scunthorpe, from 3-1 down, shows they have plenty of firepower up front.

Their 1-0 win over Coventry earlier this month also implies they're capable of keeping things tight at the back.

Last six: DLLWDW