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McCALL RELISHING SUNDERLAND CHALLENGE

21 July 2017

Bantams boss Stuart McCall says he is keen to see how his side match up against the challenge of North East giants Sunderland.

City will return to the Northern Commercials Stadium this Saturday (22 July 2017) after the summer break to play a pre-season friendly against a side who featured in the Premier League last season.

Sunderland, now under the leadership of former Huddersfield Town and Leeds United boss Simon Grayson, could feature the likes of experienced quartet Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson, Lee Cattermole and John O'Shea at Valley Parade.

Other familiar names currently within the Sunderland set-up include Jack Rodwell, Billy Jones and James Vaughan, a recent recruit from Bury.

The match-up is expected to be City's strongest test of pre-season so far, and McCall is hopeful the Bantams can deal with the step up in quality in their first game back on home soil.

McCall said: "I'm sure we will have a reasonable crowd in for the game, Sunderland should bring a few, and the pitch should be in great shape.

"It'll be great as well for the new lads to get their first taste of the ground.

"It will be a test - tactically, mentally and physically - but that is why we've chosen games like this.

"We want to see how we can handle the challenge - the lads look ready for it.

"These pre-season games aren't so much about the results but we still want the group to express themselves and play with confidence.

"We know Sunderland are a strong side and we expect there will be periods when they have a lot of the ball.

"They still have players with Premier League quality and experience in their ranks.

"They have a good management team in there now in Simon Grayson and Snods (assistant Glynn Snodin), and I'm sure they will get that club going and put them in contention for promotion.

"We have to relish playing against bigger players. 

"When they are in possession, it will be a case of how hard can we work to push and press them.

"When we have the ball, we'll look to use it right and keep hold of it.

"We want to be technically good but we also want the lads to be good without the ball as well.

"That comes with more fitness though. We don't want to be pressing just until 50-60 minutes, we want to be going right to the very end.

"We'll try to be good in both areas."

Charlie Wyke is still sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Alex Jones, Timothee Dieng and Tyrell Robinson are also expected to miss out due to minor injuries.

Romain Vincelot could feature, however, after missing Wednesday's friendly win at Eccleshill United with a sore ankle.

McCall added: "We have three or four players we won't take a risk on this Saturday.

"Tim (Dieng) is almost there but there is no point risking him making it worse, especially when he could be back training at the start of the week and playing on Wednesday (vs Newcastlew United).

"Jonesey is the same really - he is in that same category.

"He felt a little bit of tightness in his groin on Wednesday at Eccleshill. Again, it is nothing too bad but playing on Saturday will only make it worse.

"He will have a rest, while Charlie is still out.

"With only two weeks to go until the start of the season now, we don't want to take any chances.

"That was the case on Wednesday (vs Eccleshill United) with Romain. We left him out but he's trained now and he should be fine for the weekend.

"The aim with some of them is to leave them out and hopefully have them ready to train on Monday and play next Wednesday.

"We know people are keen to impress at this stage of pre-season but we'd rather give players 48 hours' rest and get them right than take a risk on them.

"We'll still be putting a competitive squad out there though, and we'll look to do the best we can.

"We will look to give four or five of the lads the full 90 minutes, and then maybe the rest of the starters to get 70 (minutes) or so.

"The other lads off the bench, probably five or six of them, will get the last 10-20 minutes.

"Those senior lads who don't start on Saturday will probably start on Wednesday night."

McCall had been hoping to give some of his squad members game-time in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Bury this Friday afternoon but the game was cancelled earlier this week.


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