Sunderland turn their attention away from Championship action this evening as they host Fulham at the Stadium of Light in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The two sides held each other to a 1-1 draw in the initial tie at Craven Cottage and will now fight for a place in the fifth round in this replay on Wearside.
Tony Mowbray’s side come into the game off the back of a 1-1 draw with Millwall away from home in the Championship and may look to rotate his team for this cup clash, ahead of another league fixture at home at the weekend.
One player who must be unleashed for his full debut in a Black Cats shirt is January signing Pierre Ekwah, who arrived on a permanent deal from Premier League side West Ham United.
The 21-year-old central midfielder has made late cameo appearances off the bench in the team’s last two competitive outings but this replay offers the manager an opportunity to start the Frenchman for the first time, providing him with a chance to shine.
With captain Corry Evans out for the rest of the season due to an injury, Mowbray’s options in the middle of the park could need to be managed carefully to avoid burnout and bringing Ekwah in would allow Edouard Michut to rest ahead of the weekend’s clash with Reading.
Should Pierre Ekwah start?
Speaking to The Chronicle ahead of the January move, journalist Jonty Colman hailed the youngster: “Pierre Ekwah is an all-action midfielder who has good ability in various areas, such as work-rate, defending and getting forward to contribute with attacks.
“He is one of the more senior players in a largely young West Ham Under-21s side, with the majority of the older players currently out on loan, or moving on to new clubs, such as Aji Alese.”
Earlier this season, the battler backed up Colman’s claim in the EFL Trophy for West Ham’s U21s as the gem averaged a Sofascore rating of 7.00 across three appearances – making two tackles and interceptions and two key passes per game.
These statistics show that the 21-year-old is an ‘all-action’ midfielder who can make key contributions at both ends of the pitch, by winning the ball back for his side and then using his quality in possession to create chances for his teammates.
Mowbray must now unleash Ekwah from the start tonight, offering the gem a chance to shine for the first time at Sunderland, to see if he can live up to the hype and put himself in contention for a regular role in the side in the second half of the campaign.