Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland return to the Stadium of Light this evening as they take on Watford in the Championship in search of back-to-back wins.
The Black Cats head into this match off the back of a comfortable 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday away from home last time out, a game in which they had bounced back from a 1-0 defeat to Cardiff City.
What’s the latest Sunderland team news?
Mowbray has confirmed that Bradley Dack and Pierre Ekwah will remain unavailable for selection as they recover from their respective injury issues. They are both expected to step up their recoveries, alongside left-back Dennis Cirkin, during the upcoming international break.
Aji Alese and Eliezer Mayenda are also back in training on the grass but there is no current timeline on their potential returns to first-team action.
The Sunderland head coach could look to make some changes to his XI for tonight’s game with the aim of avoiding further injury issues as his side play three times within the space of a week.
After their win over Sheffield Wednesday, the Black Cats now face Watford before a local clash with Middlesbrough in the early kick-off on Saturday.
With this in mind, Mowbray must finally unleash central midfielder Adil Aouchiche from the start against the Hornets in place of the experienced Alex Pritchard.
Will Adil Aouchiche start against Watford?
30-year-old Pritchard, who missed nine matches throughout the 2022/23 campaign, has been rotated in and out of the XI so far this season, with three starts and six substitute appearances in the Championship.
He has been carefully managed and that is why the ex-Blackburn Rovers tactician must rest him for this match in order to keep him fresh for the clash with Boro on Saturday.
This will then open the door for Mowbray to start Aouchiche, who came off the bench to replace Pritchard during the win at Hillsborough, for the first time since his move from Lorient during the summer window.
The 21-year-old has made four appearances off the bench for the Black Cats since his switch to the Stadium of Light and tonight could be an opportunity for him to make his full debut.
Pritchard has registered zero goals and two assists in 432 minutes of league football so far this season, whilst Aouchiche has recorded one assist in 80 minutes of Championship game time and scored once in 70 minutes of U21 football for the Sunderland academy.
The French talent, who was described as an “exciting” player by journalist Josh Bunting, previously showcased his creative qualities at Ligue 1 level during the 2020/21 campaign for Saint-Etienne.
Aourchiche scored two goals and created an eye-catching 12 ‘big chances’ in 34 appearances in the French top flight that season as a teenager.
This suggests that the potential is there for him to be an excellent stand-in for Pritchard, who created 11 ‘big chances’ for his teammates in 40 Championship outings last season.
The former Lorient ace has already showcased his eye for a pass with an assist against QPR and his statistics with Saint-Etienne indicate that Mowbray could unearth an outstanding creative threat to rival Pritchard if he can get the youngster back to his best.
Hopefully, a start tonight against Watford can provide the 5 foot 11 gem with an opportunity to showcase the best of his abilities in possession.