Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin
Jon McLaughlin returns to Bradford City today, having played 125 times for the Bantams during a spell from 2008 to 2014. Such were his performances for the Yorkshire side, he is assured to receive a warm welcome.
Once the introductions are made, however, the Scottish international will get down to business, in a bid to secure a second clean sheet of the season.
Having lost the lead twice in midweek, McLaughlin will be hoping that today’s trip provides an opportunity to build some defensive resilience and help his new club to three points over his former employers.
Defence: Adam Matthews, Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin, Reece James
Jack Ross opted to change his formation in midweek, given the loss of both Glenn Loovens and Denver Hume against Coventry. The option to stick with a three-man defence by bringing in Alim Öztürk was scrapped when Lynden Gooch also picked up a knock at the Ricoh Arena.
Instead, Ross selected a back four of Adam Matthews, Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin and Bryan Oviedo. The change was fully justified, as Sunderland controlled the game up to the point when Ovideo kicked out at Marcus Maddison.
Leaving the referee with no choice but to brandish a red card, Sunderland sacrificed goalscorer Josh Maja for Reece James.
It’s likely that the back four that ended the eventful draw with Peterborough will take to the field this afternoon.
For Reece James, it is a chance to stake a claim with both Oviedo and Hume likely to be missing throughout October. The former Wigan man is out of contract next summer, so this is an opportune time for him to show Jack Ross what he can do.
Defensive Midfield: Dylan McGeouch, Max Power
With the 4-2-3-1 formation working so well against high-flying Peterborough on Tuesday, Jack Ross may wish to retain the formation for the trip to Bradford. Max Power captained the side alongside Dylan McGeough, and both performed admirably.
Power picked up where he left off, prior to his suspension, whilst McGeouch continues to find his feet in the Sunderland midfield. Perhaps more is still expected of the Scottish international - certainly given the glowing reports from Hibs fans over the summer. Yet McGeouch hasn’t found his pre-season form and his place is under threat today from the returning Lee Cattermole.
Jack Ross has a choice on his hands: stick with his marquee midfielder who is arguably Sunderland’s long-term solution, or reinstate the player who has impressed throughout the season. Cattermole may still leave the club come January, but for now he is the man in form. It’s a tough call, but given Bradford’s own form this season, Ross may opt to leave Cattermole on the bench, as he did with Power, and stick with his midweek pairing.
Attacking Midfield: Chris Maguire, Aiden McGeady, Jerome Sinclair
The three attacking midfielders on Tuesday brought creativity, pace and strength to Sunderland’s front line. The fact the trio linked very well with Josh Maja, often interchanging roles and causing confusion within the Peterborough defence, whilst Sinclair recorded his first goal in Sunderland colours.
Jack Ross spoke of the positives from that game, and the attacking strength Sunderland displayed will surely be on display again today.
Perhaps the one doubt would be the fitness of Aiden McGeady, particularly if captain George Honeyman has recovered from a concussion sustained in training. McGeady has been out for four months, missed pre-season training and is clearly playing catch-up. Yet his presence and creativity in the first half on Tuesday night brought another dimension to Sunderland’s attack. The fact he played the full 90 minutes may have been largely down to enforced changes on the night, but it will have stood him in good stead.
Asking the Republic of Ireland international to play two games in five days may weigh on Ross’ mind. If Honeyman is ready, he could come in on the right hand side and move Maguire to the left. However, such is McGeady’s ability, starting him for even 45 minutes at Bradford could pay dividends.
Striker: Josh Maja
For a young man, Josh Maja is coming on in leaps and bounds this season. Another game, another goal, as Peterborough found out in midweek. Whilst there are still aspects of his game that need developing, the teenager is performing exceptionally well for Sunderland this season.
With former Bradford City striker Charlie Wyke still unavailable, Maja will spearhead what has become a highly fluid Sunderland attack. Supported by Maguire and Sinclair, particularly,it is hoped that Bradford’s deficiencies can be exploited this afternoon and that the now familiar arms-folded celebration be witnessed once more, in front of Sunderland’s big away following.