Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin
Jon McLaughlin’s performances for Sunderland have not gone unnoticed north of the border as Alex McLeish has recalled the goalkeeper to the national side for Scotland’s upcoming international fixtures.
McLaughlin is yet to build on the clean sheet won against Scunthorpe, but the stopper has rarely been at fault as an individual recently.
Jack Ross will be pleased that his number one has received recognition for his decent form and will hope that spurs him on this evening.
In a game Sunderland can ill-afford to lose, having your goalkeeper striving for another shut-out certainly won’t hurt. Here’s hoping McLaughlin can achieve that target tonight.
Defence: Flanagan, Baldwin, Öztürk
Sunderland’s first change on Saturday came barely moments into the game as Glenn Loovens was replaced by Adam Matthews.
Manager Jack Ross has confirmed that the Dutchman will have a scan today to understand the full extent of the injury, and so won’t be available for tonight’s game.
Ross may have been hoping to simply swap Loovens with Matthews from the start tonight, but further injuries to Lynden Gooch and Denver Hume mean both wing-backs will need to be replaced.
Instead, there is an argument that Alim Öztürk could be recalled to the heart of defence, allowing Matthews to replace Gooch out wide. This would certainly allow both players to occupy their natural positions, and, with Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin alongside him, the Turk may benefit from being part of a back three.
Both Flanagan and Baldwin have looked composed, by and large, this season and hopefully they will continue to provide a firm base upon which Sunderland can build.
Being tight at the back against one of the league leaders will be crucial if we are to gain three points at home this evening.
Midfield: Matthews, McGeough, Power, Honeyman & Oviedo
If Ross maintains his wing-back formation tonight, he will have to replace both his starters from Saturday.
On the left, Bryan Oviedo or Reece James are easy replacements for young Denver Hume. Both players offer a great deal going forward, whilst retaining the ability to close ranks in defence when under pressure. Oviedo may be ahead of James at present, but he hasn’t been at his best since the international break - Ross will be hoping for an improvement this evening.
If the left side offers natural options, on the right hand side it’s a completely different matter.
The choices are to move a midfielder out of position - possibly George Honeyman or Luke O’Nien - or ask a defender to play a more attacking game. Adam Matthews is, perhaps, the more obvious choice for the role. Whilst his concentration levels have been somewhat lacking in recent games, his ability to join the attack and look to put balls into the box may allow him to express himself more.
With Lee Cattermole suspended, it’s likely to signal a return to the first team for Max Power. The former Wigan man held a deeper role when replacing Dylan McGeough at Coventry, but against Peterborough Power will play his more natural, creative role ahead of McGeough.
In turn, the Scot will look to drive Sunderland on and find the range of passing for which he was signed. McGeough remains one player who is still finding his feet on Wearside, but as he gains match-fitness, he will become a key player for Jack Ross.
George Honeyman will more than likely maintain the more advanced role in the midfield and look to create opportunities for the attackers.
Forwards: Josh Maja & Chris Maguire
Whilst there are concerns over Josh Maja’s fitness, the youngster will not want to sit this one out tonight. Maja’s goal record has been exceptional this season and he will wish to put a disappointing game at Coventry, by his standards, behind him.
Jerome Sinclair stands ready to step up, but such is the faith Ross and his team have placed in the teenager, if Maja declares himself available, I’d expect him to lead the line this evening.
Playing just off him with a licence to roam, Chris Maguire is another creative element to this Sunderland side. Whilst Sunderland continue to search for the elusive secret to keeping clean sheets, creating chance have rarely been an issue this season.
There is an argument to be made that the forwards need to be more clinical and kill off games when taking the lead, but, as we saw last time at the Stadium of Light, when confidence flows then Sunderland’s attack is highly impressive.
Hopefully tonight the forwards will take their chances, whilst Peterborough squander theirs.