Selection Dilemmas Ahead of FA Cup Replay

Sunderland face Fulham in tonight’s FA Cup fourth-round replay. Both managers have selection dilemmas ahead of the tie with upcoming league fixtures in the back of their minds. The winners will be at home to Leeds United and for Sunderland, this gives the game an extra incentive. 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Cats’ famous FA Cup final victory over the then-mighty Leeds in 1973.

Both Managers Have Selection Dilemmas Ahead of FA Cup Replay

Important League Fixtures Upcoming

Both Sunderland and Fulham will have one eye on this weekends league fixtures while thinking about their team for the FA Cup replay. Sunderland face Reading at the Stadium of Light with three important points up for grabs. The Black Cats are currently ninth in the Championship but just two points off the playoff positions and six points off third.

Fulham are flying high in the Premier League right now, lying eighth in the table and are currently on course to challenge for a European place. They face Nottingham Forest on Saturday who will be hoping to create more distance between themselves and the relegations places.

Sunderland Selection Dilemmas

Sunderland go into the FA Cup replay without a recognised striker. With Ross Stewart out for the season and new loan signing Joe Gelhardt cup-tied, Tony Mowbray has a decision to make on how to play the game. However, Mowbray is in a similar position to earlier this season when he was forced to play several games without a striker.

The Sunderland head coach spoke in the lead-up to the game about he will approach the cup replay. He said: “We’ll have to make some decisions in terms of the selection for 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. 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 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.”

Team News

Dennis Cirkin will miss the game as he continues to follow concussion protocols after being knocked out while scoring the equaliser at Millwall on Saturday. Alex Pritchard is back in contention after making his comeback from injury as a substitute also at Millwall. Fan favourite Luke O’Nien is also available for selection after completing his three-game suspension.

New signings Joe Anderson and Isaac Lihadji are unable to feature as they were not registered in time for the original tie at Craven Cottage but Pierre Ekwah is available.

Fulham Selection Dilemmas

Fulham boss Marco Silva is suspended tonight and will not be allowed on the bench. A fourth yellow card of the season against Chelsea means he will have to watch this game from the stands. On the pitch, Silva has decisions to make.

Seven changes were made for the first game; however, with Fulham in eighth place in the Premier League with little chance of being in a relegation fight, Silva may see this as a chance to get to at least the latter stages of the FA Cup. 

Team News

Fulham have no new injury worries although Neeskens Kebano remains sidelined.

During his press conference, Silva said that the team he picks for the replay at Sunderland will be the best players for the game. He said: “Let’s see how many [changes] we are going to do. As you know, we are going to play on Wednesday evening, and we have Nottingham Forest Saturday, 3pm.

“Of course, as always, we look for the next match as the most important one, and the FA Cup is our focus, but we have to think at the same time about the next one. It has been a busy period, some of the players have been playing many, many games since Boxing Day, and we have to take care of it.

“But it will be a decision that I have to take, and the most important [game] for us will be the FA Cup right now, even if you make changes or not. The players that start the game, they will be the best players for the game.

“First, we have to reach the same type of motivation, the same type of enthusiasm, know how [Sunderland] are going to play. And we have to play our game, it doesn’t matter if you make many changes or not, we have to play our game. We have to be Fulham Football Club, play to our strengths and play to win the football match.

“It will be difficult, like all the ties in the FA Cup. I think the game against them at home was a good example. But we have to do better than the last game.”

Main Image
Embed from Getty Images