Goalkeeper: Lee Camp
With relegation not yet a mathematical certainty, Chris Coleman is highly unlikely to change a side that has, by and large, performed well in the past month.
Despite his errors costing us victory at Reading, Lee Camp is a likely starter. The on-loan goalkeeper hasn’t significantly improved the position since his arrival, but with Jason Steele the only other senior option Camp really has no competition for the jersey.
Perhaps - if relegation is confirmed - young Max Stryjek could be tested in one of the two other remaining games, but with a huge home game today Camp will more than likely be the custodian come 3pm.
Defence: Adam Matthews, Lamine Kone, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson
With injuries ruling out a number of key players there will be forced changes afoot.
Donald Love will be one of those missing today, so it’s likely that Adam Matthews will return to the side as full-back. There is a consideration whether Coleman will use him on the left hand side, with Bryan Oviedo also missing, and bring Billy Jones into the right back slot, or ask Marc Wilson to deputise at left back so Matthews can resume his normal position. I prefer to think the latter will happen, simply as Wilson has made a few appearances lately whilst Jones has been missing for some time.
The centre half roles are likely to remain largely as they have been for the past few games, as John O’Shea is ready to return alongside Lamine Kone. As mentioned, Wilson could be shifted to left back to accommodate the skipper.
Today is a must-win game if Sunderland have any lingering hopes of survival and a strong defence performance is crucial. The organisation skills of O’Shea and the experience of the suggested back line will go a long way to securing the much-needed victory.
Midfield: Lee Cattermole, Paddy McNair, George Honeyman, Callum McManaman, Aiden McGeady
With Lynden Gooch out for the last three games, the midfield will, most likely, remain unchanged. His replacement, Callum McManaman, was effective against Reading if not a little rusty. Coleman has praised the winger’s attitude this week and claimed Sunderland must build around such players next season - such recognition is likely to precede inclusion in today’s side and, hopefully, it will encourage the former Wigan man to put in another decent performance.
In the heart of midfield Lee Cattermole will relinquish the captaincy but will still need to be a leader from the middle of the park. He has performed much better in recent weeks with George Honeyman and Paddy McNair alongside him. The energy and creativity of Honeyman will be a factor once more today, whilst all eyes will be on Irishman McNair after his own fantastic spell of form.
His stunning strike last weekend brought plaudits and probably reminded one or two managers of his unquestionable ability. If Sunderland are to miraculously survive it will be down in no small way to his return. If we are to drop, keeping hold of him, despite Coleman’s assertions that we must build around him, may prove the biggest test of the summer.
Ahead of those four, Aiden McGeady still offers our best hope for a victory. His goals and assists have been crucial for us and, since his return to the side a few weeks ago, he has looked likely to add to his tally in every game.
Attack: Ashley Fletcher
With contract offers being made to Josh Maja and Joel Asoro, the future of the club’s strike-force is in the mind of the management.
Maja is unlikely to start today but will surely be on the bench, whilst Asoro will be missing through injury. The young Swede was not expected back before pre-season, but Coleman has hinted he may yet play a part against Wolves and maybe even Fulham.
Today, though, the burden of expectation rests on the shoulders of Ashley Fetcher once more.
The loanee has been unlucky of late, hitting the post in successive games. Hopefully today he can go an inch inside and record his second goal of the season. This is a huge game for the club and Fletcher, so today is the day he has to deliver.