Sunderland v Leeds United: Three selection issues for Black Cats boss Simon Grayson

Sunderland boss Simon Grayson.
Sunderland boss Simon Grayson.
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Sunderland have faced a gruelling start to the 2017-18 campaign - with three league and cup games to contend with in the space of six days.

It has left manager Simon Grayson pondering whether to make changes for the visit of Leeds United to the Stadium of Light on Saturday teatime.

Grayson was keeping his cards close to his chest in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday and with Sunderland unbeaten, he will be reluctant to make unnecessary changes.

But Sunderland had to defend doggedly for much of the second half against Wednesday with the week’s tough schedule seemingly catching up with them.

We look at three selection issues for Grayson ahead of the visit of Leeds:

To bring Wahbi Khazri back into the fold?

The winger came on as a late second half sub against Wednesday, replacing Aiden McGeady with ten minutes to go.

McGeady had run himself ragged against his former side, the wideman keen to impress after a less than successful loan spell at Hillsborough back in 2016.

McGeady will be a certain starter against Leeds United but could Grayson look to bring Khazri in as well?

George Honeyman has started all three league games, scoring his first league goal against Wednesday. He would be the only other option for Khazri to come into the side in place of but given Honeyman’s form, Khazri may have to make do with an extended spell on the bench.

Keep faith with Jason Steele?

The summer signing has Robbin Ruiter breathing down his neck ahead of the visit of Leeds United but Steele has done little wrong since his poor performance on his debut in the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Celtic.

Steele doesn’t command his area as well as the giant Dutchman, that would be the main area of concern for Grayson, especially on set pieces where Sunderland do look vulnerable.

With so many games Ruiter will inevitably get his chance at some point but for now, Grayson is set to keep faith with Steele, who could do little about David Jones’ thunderbolt to equalise for Wednesday.

Defensively there has been a marked improvement since the visit of Celtic and Grayson won’t want to disrupt things at the back.

Make earlier substitutions?

Provided everyone is fit, then Grayson is unlikely to want to make changes. But the Sunderland boss may have to consider making substitutions earlier in the game.

The Black Cats produced a sterling, resolute and dogged performance at Hillsborough but there were one or two players feeling it midway through the second half.

Grayson waited until the 80th minute to make his first sub in Khazri, with Lynden Gooch and Darron Gibson coming on in the 84th and 88th minute respectively.

Leeds United at home will provide another stern test for this unbeaten Sunderland side. Plenty to ponder for Grayson as he looks to build on the club’s impressive unbeaten start.