What we know about Sunderland's injury situation ahead of Sheffield Wednesday semi finals

Sunderland head into the play-offs in excellent form but with a number of key injury concerns for Alex Neil to weigh up this week.

By Phil Smith
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 12:30 pm

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Top of the list ahead of Sheffield Wednesday's visit is the outstanding Nathan Broadhead, who has managed to score 13 goals in just 25 appearances across an impressive but injury-hit campaign.

Broadhead limped out of the final-day win against Morecambe with a muscle problem and though Neil understandably was giving little away in the immediate aftermath of the game, the striker's dejected expression as he left the pitch told a story.

He is a major doubt to play any part in the play-off campaign, and Neil's options elsewhere are sparse.

Nathan Broadhead scores at Morecambe

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The head coach has generally favoured the same 3-5-2 system deployed by Sheffield Wednesday, giving him the dual benefit of partnering Stewart and Broadhead while covering for some key defensive deficiencies in terms of personnel.

Without Broadhead a change in shape, at least slight, may be in the offing. Jack Clarke was recruited in part because he had played as a centre forward for Spurs U23s earlier in the season, and Neil did bring him on there in the aftermath of Broadhead's injury last Saturday, but the Owls clearly represent another step up in quality. One alternative option would be to deploy an extra attacking midfielder, which may be an attractive proposition given Alex Pritchard's timely return to fitness.

One thing is for sure, though: Broadhead's absence would pose a major challenge for Neil in terms of freshening up his forward line through the course of the two legs, and hand an advantage to Wednesday who are well stocked up front.

Neil is also monitoring two key concerns in his defensive ranks.

Carl Winchester as it stands looks almost certain to miss out, with the head coach confirming last Friday that he was facing 'weeks on the sidelines'. So far it's a blow the Black Cats have been able to manage relatively well thanks to Danny Batth's strong form. Though Winchester's absence takes some welcome pace and composure on the ball out of the backline, Batth's presence does add both physicality and another key figure at set plays.

Neil has said that he is 'hopeful' that Dennis Cirkin will return for the semi final after a recent calf issue, and that would be a significant boost.

Luke O'Nien deputised well on the left of the back three at Morecambe but against an opponent as strong as Wednesday, Cirkin's return would likely free Lynden Gooch up to continue on the right flank where he is most threatening. Against Rotherham last week, he was brought across to add extra defensive protection in Cirkin's absence. Callum Doyle is also expected to be fit for the games.

Neil will also be hoping to bolster his options in the wide areas, with Leon Dajaku due to return to Wearside on Monday.

Dajaku returned to Germany for tests and treatment after falling ill with what was initially believed to be tonsillitis, but proved to me more problematic.

The 21-year-old will be assessed this week ahead of the semi finals.

Aiden McGeady is also expected to feature having returned to the matchday squad at Morecambe, though having not played any competitive football since November his involvement will be limited.