Goalkeeper: Robbin Ruiter
Jack Ross made eight changes for the opening Checkatrade Trophy game in September and it’s likely six or more changes will be made this evening. The side that took to the field against Bradford has been decimated due to injury, suspension and international call-ups.
One man who benefitted against Stoke City’s U21 side last time out was Robbin Ruiter. The Dutchman saved two spot-kicks as Sunderland ran out 4-2 winners and earned us the bonus point.
Tonight Ruiter will be between the sticks in a bid to earn Sunderland more points, but also remind Jack Ross of his own abilities.
Defence: Adam Matthews, Alim Öztürk, Jack Baldwin, Reece James
The back four will likely pick itself tonight. With Glenn Loovens, Bryan Oviedo, Tom Flanagan, Denver Hume and Donald Love all missing for a variety of reasons, the one change from Saturday will be the re-introduction of Alim Öztürk. There is likely to be a place on the bench for young defenders Brandon Taylor, Owen Gamble and perhaps Jack Bainbridge.
On paper, this is a strong Sunderland defence and will be looking to contain Carlisle’s League Two strikers. The fact the Blackpool game was postponed does give Jack Ross an opportunity to keep his defence intact, by and large, and provides another opportunity to build relationships and defensive resilience.
For Alim Öztürk and Reece James, especially, it provides a great opportunity to stake claims for league inclusion on a regular basis.
Midfield: Dylan McGeouch, Ethan Robson, Luke O’Nien
The options available to Ross tonight could lead to a further change in formation. Having played with three at the back and wing-backs for much of September, the change was made to a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent games. Tonight a 4-3-3 line-up may suit the players available.
Dylan McGeough sat out the trip to Bradford but will replace Lee Cattermole this evening. The deep-lying playmaker hasn’t done much wrong in recent weeks, but there is still a lot more to come from the Scottish international. Hopefully his range of passing will drive Sunderland on and his match fitness will continue to develop.
Alongside him Ethan Robson will get a rare start. The defensive-minded midfielder will slot in alongside McGeough and replace Max Power. The young man has been tipped for a bright future at the Stadium of Light for some years now, and it is hoped he will take these kind of opportunities to impress the new management team.
The final of the central midfield trio may be Luke O’Nien. Having succumbed to illness last week, the former Wycombe man will be desperate for another chance to start in Sunderland colours. The box-to-box role may be suited to O’Nien’s style of play and Carlisle will be a team he’s aware of, having played against them last season.
Expect to see Jack Diamond make the bench and perhaps even a cameo appearance tonight.
Attack: George Honeyman, Aiden McGeady, Chris Maguire
Ross may choose to start the game with the eleven first team players at his disposal, rather than promote any Academy product from the start. In which case, Chris Maguire is likely to be asked to lead the line.
The former Bury man has quickly become a fan-favourite at the Stadium of Light and weighed in with his share of the goals this season. Leading the line will be a different role, but one Maguire is not wholly unaccustomed to.
Either side of him and offering support could well be returning captain George Honeyman, perhaps asked to play from the right-hand side tonight, and Aiden McGeady, supporting from the left. Both players will be looking to use their creativity to carve open tonight’s opponents, whilst also making runs beyond Maguire. The likes of O’Nien breaking from midfield would also benefit from Sunderland maintaining a fluidity amongst their attack as has been seen so often this season.
The one player that may be considered is Benji Kimpioka. If O’Nien fails to make it tonight and Honeyman resumes his natural role in the midfield, the young Swede could operate in the attacking trio. If the youngster doesn’t start the game, expect to see his appearance at some stage of the evening.