GK: Jon McLaughlin
Despite Robbin Ruiter getting the nod for the Checkatrade Trophy game with Morecambe on Tuesday, there can be no doubts that Jon McLaughlin will regain his place in the side for this afternoon.
Special measures were taken by the club in order to recall the former Hearts stopper from international duty with Scotland, an agreement which Jack Ross made with Alex McLeish in order to give us the best possible chance of picking our strongest side.
Ruiter looked rusty on Tuesday, though he did make one important stop later in the game, and it’s understandable since he’s not played a great deal of football so far this season.
Having kept four straight league clean sheets, McLaughlin will be looking to add to that number with another today against a strong, aggressive Wycombe side.
Defence: Matthews, Flanagan, Baldwin, James
As we learned yesterday, Tom Flanagan has been granted permission to leave Northern Ireland’s squad in order to play for Sunderland this afternoon.
He didn’t even feature as part of the side that drew with the Republic of Ireland on Thursday night as he was allowed to depart under similar circumstances to the ones that have also seen Jon McLaughlin return for today’s game.
That means that Jack Ross can pick the same back five that have managed to keep four straight clean sheets in League One - a welcome boost which gives us the best possible chance of securing the three points and another shutout against a dominant Wycombe side that will look to rough our defenders up.
Midfield: McGeough & Honeyman
Jack Ross has a really tough decision to make this afternoon with regards to whether or not the influential presence of Max Power is worth more to his side in this game than playing an attacking style of football.
Dylan McGeough has yet to have a stand-out performance for Sunderland but he’s still performing well enough to warrant a start, whilst George Honeyman has been the star man in recent weeks since he was dropped at Shrewsbury.
Lee Cattermole isn’t fit enough to warrant inclusion, which is disappointing, but with plenty of options available to him it won’t worry Jack Ross much that he has to go another game without his talisman central midfielder.
Attack: Gooch, Maguire, McGeady
The attacking trio of Lynden Gooch, Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady have been at the heart of Sunderland’s best play in recent weeks and it’s unlikely that they’ll be split up any time soon.
In fact, most of Sunderland’s goals recently have came from the group, and it doesn’t appear to phase them who we come up against - the same tactics apply in each game as they look to pull apart and hurt teams both from range and down the flanks.
Gooch will have been disappointed that he never earned a call up to the USMNT squad this week, when an injury to a key winger meant a spot opened up for someone like the 22-year old to come in. But, with another chance to show why he’s worthy of inclusion upon him, it’s likely he’ll play with the same verve and passion that has seen him succeed more often than not this season.
Chris Maguire bagged an assist at Port Vale last weekend and Aiden McGeady was one of our most threatening players, so Wycombe’s defenders will have to be on their toes if they want to successfully prevent the Glasgow-born pair from opening them up and exploiting their weaknesses.
Striker: Josh Maja
Like the decision over who plays in the centre of midfield, Jack Ross has a tough task in selecting which of his two available centre forwards should start this afternoon.
Jerome Sinclair hasn’t scored anywhere near enough this season but he is a fantastic foil for the attacking players behind him, something that showed yet again at Port Vale when he was involved in both of Sunderland’s goals.
On Tuesday, however, we saw the return of top scorer Josh Maja to the fold - and as we’ve seen on many occasions this season, it was his quality in front of goal that made the difference as he scored with a lovely finish to ensure we won the game.
Maja showed earlier in the season that he can go on a run of scoring goals once he gets going, and now that he’s recovered from the injury that took him out of action it’s hoped that he’ll pick back up where he left off from.
The fact Maja scored on Tuesday just puts him ahead of Sinclair in the pecking order for today’s game - though I must admit, it’s bloody lovely having options isn’t it?