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OPINION: Despite various issues, Sunderland must use tonight’s game to build up some momentum

Whilst Sunderland have LOADS of players missing tonight, we can still name a fairly strong side. It’s a chance for a number of our fringe players to really grasp the opportunity to impress - question is, can they do it?

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland have no fewer than fourteen players unavailable for tonight’s game against Carlisle as a host of first-teamers are injured, suspended or ready to head off on international duty.

It would be interesting to see how Ross would have approached the game with a full-strength side due to the fact that his team desperately needs to carry on the momentum generated in Saturday’s gritty win away to Bradford.

O’Nien could have really benefitted from minutes this week - will he feature at all?
Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

That being said, Carlisle will be a stern test - they are sitting comfortably in 10th place in League Two; however, Jack Ross will be keen to see if his men can rise to the challenge in difficult circumstances even if he might have been eager to stick with the same side as the weekend.

Our defensive group have finally started to gel, and giving them more minutes together could well have helped foster their cohesiveness - something we’ve really lacked at times this season.

Alim Ozturk will likely start, and it’s likely that several youth players will find a role on the bench - perhaps they will give Ross food for thought.

Our midfield, too, will be disrupted. Lee Cattermole’s return to form has been nothing short of prodigal, and keeping him in the side could have been important, but he will be rested in the name of ‘maintenance’. Sunderland will need Dylan McGeouch, Ethan Robson, Luke O’Nien, or someone else to take the central midfield positions - perhaps they’ll stake a claim for a first-team inclusion?

Then there’s the question of our forward position.

Do we keep Maja fit and healthy by resting him, or do we allow him to try and keep his incredible run of form going? Ross noted that Maja has a niggling injury and is likely to miss out, and Benji Kimpioka will undoubtedly be waiting in the wings, eager to impress; however, Chris Maguire might also be another option up top.

Who makes the starting XI this week?
Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jack Ross is subsequently left between a rock and a hard place here in deciding what side to field in this week’s Checkatrade tie.

Hopefully, the manager is able to strike the right balance between affording players in need of minutes to impress, and keeping form players in the side in order to cultivate momentum.

Carlisle won’t roll over this week, but Sunderland’s management team - and indeed the players - should see this game as a great opportunity to develop our play and continue good form.

As much as this is a great opportunity to rest players feeling somewhat jaded, and is a chance to test several fringe players, Ross will need to be sensible in his team selection.

Hopefully Sunderland use this Checkatrade tie as a chance to build momentum.

In eleven days we face Shrewsbury away from home, sitting in third place, a mere four points behind leaders Pompey - keeping hold of this winning mentality is vital if we are to mount a siege at the top of the table.