Sunderland v Fulham: Tony Mowbray drops a major selection hint
Tony Mowbray has hinted that he will freshen up his Sunderland starting XI for the FA Cup replay with Fulham as his side sets out on a challenging February fixture list.
Mowbray will have to make at least one change as Joe Gelhardt is cup-tied, meaning that the Black Cats will be operating without a recognised striker.
And while Mowbray believes the youth in his squad should be a positive in coping with the fixture list, he's mindful of ensuring there is no burnout in the weeks ahead.
"We'll have to make some decisions in terms of the selection fo the team, with half an eye on a league match against Reading at home this weekend that we have to try and target to get the three points," Mowbray said.
"It's just about getting the balance - how much can you go to the well with the same group of players every match?
"We're in a period now where we potentially have a midweek game every week this month, with a squad where we will have a 15-year-old on the bench again and maybe a couple of 17-year-olds as well.
"It's stretching our squad, with the injuries we've got and some players who aren't eligible tomorrow night.
"We're a bit short for this game but it's a great opportunity for some of these youngsters to feel the atmosphere and show what we can do.
"What I would say is that the positive of me sitting here and talking about young the squad is, well they should all be fit, strong, powerful and able to run. I shouldn't have to worry about tired old legs and hopefully that remains the case. It's a young, athletic group and they should be robust."
While mindful of the challenge a Fulham side thriving in the Premier League will pose, Mowbray said it's a chance for his young group to impress again on a big stage.
"We understand it's a challenge and a test," Mowbray said.
"It's a great game for these young lads to go and show where they are, and see if we can repeat the consistency of the first game where we gave a really good account for themselves."