Sunderland predicted XI - Norwich City: Will Allardyce switch things up ahead of crucial Canaries clash?

It's the battle at the bottom that has everyone talking, but who will Sunderland opt for ahead of one of the biggest games this season?

Sunderland predicted XI - Norwich City: Will Allardyce switch things up ahead of crucial Canaries clash?
Can Allardyce secure a vital win on Saturday? | Image: Sunderland AFC

In what most people are calling a win or bust game for Sunderland, who will Sam Allardyce start against Norwich City on Saturday?

Mannone staying between the sticks

At this late stage of the season, it's unlikely to see change at the goalkeeper position and Vito Mannone would not deserve to lose his spot. The Italian 'keeper has had a really good couple of weeks, as he ended his long clean sheet drought against West Bromwich Albion. Despite being beaten twice by Jamie Vardy, he made numerous second half saves to stop a potentially embarrassing score-line against Leicester City last week.

Also, with young Jordan Pickford acting as the only real back-up to Mannone, it would be a lot to ask of the local lad to come in and keep Sunderland in the top flight for a handful of games.

Defence to remain intact

The attacking abilities of DeAndre Yedlin on the right and Patrick van Aanholt on the left could be crucial to Sunderland's chances in what is a must win game.

The depth is thin at wing back, with Billy Jones the only alternative. While he is more of a Sam Allardyce type player, his pace and attacking work rate do not compare to Yedlin or van Aanholt in a game where Sunderland need to be on the front foot.

Moving inside and there is potential for change in central defence. For one reason or another, the back four - as a whole - can't put a full 90 minute performance together and in recent weeks it has come down to defenders being isolated.

Leicester found their breakthrough last week from a simple long ball over the top, which exposed Younes Kaboul's lack of speed.

On paper, Kaboul and Lamine Kone are Sunderland's strongest partnership in central defence. However with a wise old head like John O'Shea in reserve, Allardyce - a former centre back himself - may be tempted to put in a player who has won plenty of big games in his career and is a natural born leader on the pitch.

Sunderland will be hoping that they will be celebrating on Saturday against Norwich City. | Photo: Getty Images
Sunderland will be hoping that they will be celebrating on Saturday against Norwich City. | Photo: Getty Images

Rodwell may feature

The manager seems set on this three man central midfield set-up in recent weeks, which has worked to an extent. However, like the defence, they seem to run out of steam near the end of games, hence wins ending up as draws or even defeats.

Lee Cattermole, Yann M'Vila and Jan Kirchhoff have been the chosen three for a few games now and they've put in decent performances, but not winning ones. The obvious reason for this is that the three players play the same way. They are all naturally defensive minded and focus on breaking up opposition attacks instead of starting their own, which leaves too much for the front three to do.

Therefore, coming into this game where Sunderland simply have to win, a change could be in the making. On paper Cattermole seems the most likely to drop as Kirchhoff and M'Vila have played for some big-name clubs. However the fans opinion seem to point to M'Vila being cut as his performances have slipped in recent weeks, living off what he did earlier in the campaign.

Whoever is left out, a decent replacement has to be put in with two main contenders in the running. The more popular choice would be to get Sebastian Larsson back in the side despite a long injury layoff. The team could certainly use his work ethic and composure on the ball, as well as set piece skills.

The other option is Jack Rodwell, who has been a regularly used substitute in recent weeks. The former Everton man is certainly not a fan favourite though, especially on the back of recent games; most notably the Leicester match, where he managed to blaze over from six yards with the score at 1-0.

He is arguably a better attacking player than Larsson, though, and more likely to get in goal scoring positions which is obviously what the team needs for a must win game. Allardyce appears to have faith in him as he's become the go to guy on the bench, so he may well get the nod at Carrow Road.

Front three could stay the same

Assuming the system of 4-3-3 doesn't change, then it's unlikely to see alteration up front. Jermain Defoe had one of his more poorer games in a Sunderland shirt last week, but he is a proven match winner and has 15 goals to his name this season so will continue to lead the line in East Anglia.

Meanwhile, out on the flanks, Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini should remain even though they were both taken off last week; the latter hit himself in the face with a shot. Plus, if the midfield is remains unchanged, then these two are by far Sunderland's most creative players and most likely to chip in with a goal other than Defoe.

There are alternatives with Jeremain Lens getting some minutes off the bench last week and doing okay, while young Duncan Watmore returned to training this week. However it would be a huge gamble for Allardyce to start either, and he's not really that type of manager.

Predicted XI: 4-3-3 - Mannone, Yedlin, Kaboul, Kone, Van Aanholt; Cattermole, Kirchhoff, Rodwell; Khazri, Defoe, Borini.