Goalkeeper: Robbin Ruiter
Robbin Ruiter returned to the subs’ bench for the FA Cup tie at Walsall at the weekend having shaken off an injury. Tonight he will resume his Checkatrade career and once more keep goal for Sunderland.
Ruiter has been a far more impressive figure in this competition than in his Championship displays, but he has yet to fully challenge Jon McLaughlin for the number one jersey. Out of contract this summer, it would be something of a surprise were he to extend his Sunderland career, but, for now, he can accomplish something by being part of a successful cup team.
Defence: Jack Bainbridge, Glenn Loovens, Alim Öztürk, Bryan Oviedo
Against Morecambe, Ross elevated a number of Academy players and gave them the chance to prove themselves in a first team competition. Jack Bainbridge was one of those to benefit and performed admirably at right back that evening. James Fowler, in his press conference yesterday, hinted that some of the Academy lads would remain in and around the squad for tonight and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if Bainbridge is given another chance to impress.
On the left, Bryan Oviedo may continue in the side following his late inclusion at The Bescot for the injured Chris Maguire. Returning to his more natural left-back position, the Costa Rican will be looking to make further impressions on the Sunderland management. Having lost his place to Reece James, who has been a consistent performer this season, there is the question of whether Oviedo will move on in the January window. Whether playing to regain his Sunderland shirt or to prompt a move elsewhere, Oviedo will take the opportunity to put himself in the shop-window tonight.
In the middle, it is likely that Glenn Loovens and Alim Öztürk will be given a run-out. Such has been the form and partnership of Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin that the two other senior centre-halves have ben kicking their heels of late. A chance tonight to remind Ross of their abilities won’t go amiss.
Midfield: Bali Mumba, Luke O’Nien, Jake Hackett
James Fowler yesterday confirmed Bali Mumba would start this evening’s game. The England Youth International missed the Morecambe game, but has been in and around the first team squad of late. An appearance as a substitute on Saturday during the FA cup game at Walsall will have whetted the youngesters appetite for the match tonight. Bali is one of the best Academy products since Jordan Pickford and the management will be keen for his development to continue in the correct manner.
Jake Hackett is another who is finding a slot in matchday squads and impressed during the last Checkatrade game. If, like Bainbridge, he is another youngster given further opportunities in this competition, it will certainly cement his name as one of the ones to watch. Hackett has a good all-round game and will be keen to perhaps secure a loan move in January to build his experience.
Luke O’Nien has come to the fore in recent weeks. His hard work has paid off as he started the FA cup-tie and must be a strong bet for tonight. Jack Ross has spoken of how the former Wycombe man has taken time to settle, but the way O’Nien plays with his heart on his sleeve is endearing him to the Sunderland fans. Another good showing tonight and he will continue to push his claims for a regular league start.
Forwards: Jerome Sinclair, Jack Diamond, Duncan Watmore
With Jack Ross opting to switch Josh Maja for Jerome Sinclair in recent weeks, the on-loan Watford man may well be looking to start tonight’s game. His power and pace has been a problem for defences when he’s played, but his goalscoring remains an issue numerically. Hopefully tonight, Sinclair can throw caution to the wind and grab a goal or two to boost his confidence.
Talking of confidence, a run-out tonight for Duncan Watmore will be a huge step forward in the attacker’s return from serious injury. The club have handled his recovery well and tonight, be it as a starter or a sub, the sight of Watmore once more representing Sunderland in a competitve match will be a huge boost for all concerned.
For Duncan himself, this is a step towards full recovery and there is bound to be a huge cheer when his name is announced.
The third member of the forward line may well be Jack Diamond. Again, an Academy youngster who has performed well when given a chance in this competition, he is one of a few highly-rated forwards coming through. Andrew Nelson is recovering from injury, Benji Kimpioka marked his debut with a goal in this competition, and Lee Connelly is another worth watching out for. But if Diamond is given the chance, perhaps he will be the name on people’s lips come full time.