Scout report: Why Sunderland must be wary of Walsall’s exciting youngsters and ex-Rangers star

Sunderland must be wary of Walsall
Sunderland must be wary of Walsall
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Sunderland will be looking to continue their fine form of late when they travel to Walsall - but what do we know about the opposition?

The Black Cats are unbeaten in their last 12 outings but will face yet another stern test when they make the journey to the Midlands tomorrow afternoon.

But what should Jack Ross and Sunderland expect from their trip to the Banks's Stadium?

Here's an in-depth look at the Saddlers:

What system will Walsall play?

Walsall tend to operate in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, although they have been known to switch things up to combat the opposition.

Two lively and attack-minded wide players provide the ammunition for a talented front two, who have looked lively throughout the season.

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The front line is very much based on youth, with a clutch of promising youngsters starting to flourish.

Further back, however, the Saddlers benefit from some real experience with the solid bank of four at the back proving difficult to penetrate.

Who are Walsall’s key players?

Perhaps the most recognisable name in the Walsall side is that of Russell Martin - the former Norwich and Rangers centre back who joined the club in the summer.

His experience at the back has proved vital alongside the likes of Jon Guthrue and Luke Leahy who have plenty of EFL experience behind them.

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Further up the field, the lively Zeli Ismail has caught the eye with his performances - the former Wolves wideman impressing on the left flank.

And up top, former Carlisle and Tranmere striker Andy Cook has hit the goal trail after making the step up from non-league, having netted eight times already this season.

Do Walsall have any injury worries?

Walsall have no fresh injury worries ahead of their trip to the North East, meaning manager Dean Keates could opt to name an unchanged side from that which drew with Fleetwood last weekend.

Experienced midfielder Isaiah Osbourne could be welcomed back into the fold with Keates revealing he was set for a return to training this week.

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

Dean Keates is the man in charge at Walsall after impressing in his first managerial job at Wrexham.

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A former midfielder, Keates playing career saw him represent the likes of Peterborough, Wycombe and Walsall - with the 40-year-old returning to his former club as manager in 2018.

He enjoyed great success at Wrexham with an attack-minded style, so expect similar from the Saddlers this weekend.

What form have Walsall been in?

Walsall don’t enter the clash at the Banks’s Stadium in the best run of form, having won just one of their last six League One outings and just twice in their last six games in all competitions.

A draw against play-off chasing Fleetwood last weekend should provide some confidence, however, ahead of the visit of the Black Cats.

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