Goalkeeper: Jason Steele
Myself and Graham debated earlier this week on the site about who we’d put between the sticks, and I argued the case for Robbin Ruiter - and, as the poll at the bottom of the article suggests, almost all of the Sunderland fans that voted agree with my reasoning. Unfortunately I don’t think Simon Grayson is ready to pull the plug yet, and I fully expect the hapless Steele to start again. Any more blunders, though, and he’ll surely find himself out of the side on Tuesday night.
Left Back: Bryan Oviedo
Without any real competition for his place it’s almost a formality to suggest that Bryan Oviedo starts when fit. He’s gone under the radar in recent weeks but has arguably been our best performing defender - and his fantastic assist for Lewis Grabban’s first last week just goes to show what he can offer us from an attacking perspective, too.
Centre Back: John O’Shea
Despite the fact we conceded three last week, I don’t feel that O’Shea did a great deal wrong and though Marc Wilson has trained all week, I don’t foresee that Grayson will needlessly drop his captain.
Centre Back: Lamine Kone
Had Tyias Browning been fit for selection this may have been up for debate, but he’s not, so Kone just about keeps his place - and with January around the corner, he needs to start showing why potential buyers should be queuing up to take him off our hands.
Right Back: Adam Matthews
Adam Matthews bizarrely lost his place to Billy Jones last week, a decision that shot Simon Grayson in the foot when Jones turned in an absolutely turgid performance at right back, particularly in the second half. The sooner the manager realises just how little Jones offers us the better, because of the two players only Matthews has shown us this season what he’s actually capable of. The Welshman isn’t perfect but he’s able to get forward, something that is essential for a full-back in the modern game.
Central Midfield: Lee Cattermole
Another player that should probably lose his spot in the side but most likely won’t.
I could be proven wrong but I just don’t see it. With a lack of competition for his place, and with Paddy McNair only really likely to make the bench, Cattermole will more than likely start the game alongside Didier Ndong in the centre of the park - though, it will be interesting to see if the pair play slightly better in the event that the more attack-minded Jonny Williams takes up a place just in front of them.
Central Midfield: Didier Ndong
One of the first names on the team sheet, even when he’s not playing particularly well.
Centre Attacking Midfield: Jonny Williams
In his interview this week with the Daily Express, Williams seemed quietly confident that he’d play in tomorrow’s game, and he’s trained all week having missed out last week through a precaution taken following the QPR draw when he twinged his hamstring. When fit, Williams is our arguably best central midfielder and needs to start - and with the pressure on Grayson to get a win, I think he might bite the bullet, drop George Honeyman and bring in the Palace loanee to provide some impetus in behind the forward line.
Left Midfield: Aiden McGeady
McGeady is undoubtedly our best player, and when fit he has to start. Last time out at the SoL he rescued us from the jaws of defeat with a long range strike, proving that despite our unfortunate league position, we do actually have some half-decent attackers.
Right Midfield: Duncan Watmore
Watmore’s run to win our penalty last week at Griffin Park shows exactly what he can bring to the side when he’s fit. Simon Grayson hinted today in his press conference that Callum McManaman picked up a niggle in training earlier in the week but will still be available, which makes me think that the ex-Wigan winger will have to settle for a place on the bench yet again.
Centre Forward: Lewis Grabban
Marking his return to the starting line-up last week with a couple of goals, Grabban is the most nailed-on starter of them all this weekend. The on-loan Bournemouth forward showed us exactly what a decent striker can do when afforded chances to score and he’s sure to lead the line tomorrow afternoon.