Goalkeeper: Jason Steele
Chris Coleman sprang a slight surprise last time out by recalling Jason Steele to the starting eleven... again! Granted, Lee Camp was a nightmare at Reading and cost us the three points we so desperately needed, but it was still a surprise to see Steele’s name on the team sheet against Burton Albion.
Perhaps Coleman was starting to think he needed to pick a side that more reflected the one that would take on League One next season. Steele is our contracted goalkeeper after all, so maybe it made sense. If that was Coleman’s thinking, I suspect Steele will retain his place tonight.
I do have to wonder though, with relegation confirmed, would Max Stryjek not become an option? I heard Coleman’s press conference but I still have to wonder, if he is to be a key part of the squad next season, would taking a look at him now be such a bad idea?
Defence: Adam Matthews, Lamine Kone, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson
Coleman has hinted that Lamine Kone, who came off last weekend with a knock, has trained this week and should resume his place in the heart of defence. At the same time, Billy Jones has been cast as a doubt for retaining his right back spot. Adam Matthews came on against Burton on the hour mark and should be fit to come into the side should Jones not make it.
Otherwise, it’s likely to be the same old heads, with Marc Wilson and ‘Player of the Year’ John O’Shea completing the back line.
The end of season award may have surprised many, but the skipper has certainly featured more than anyone - including O’Shea himself - thought and, with two games left in a Sunderland shirt, perhaps being handed the award was more a reflection of his service than his perfomances this season.
Nevertheless, the back line will be playing for professional pride against one of the Championship’s top sides and they won’t have an easy time of it tonight.
Midfield: Lee Cattermole, Paddy McNair, George Honeyman, Callum McManaman, Joel Asoro
Aiden McGeady has been playing through the pain barrier recently, according to Coleman, and so he is likely to sit this one out. Last week, Joel Asoro made an appearance from the bench and it’s likely that he’ll come into the starting XI tonight. Whether he will be asked to play from a wide role and drift behind the main striker, or whether Coleman will move George Honeyman out to the left and play Asoro in a front two, remains to be seen.
Paddy McNair and Lee Cattermole will line up in the heart of midfield and we have to wonder whether one or both will be sold before the start of next season. McNair will have his suitors, no doubt, and Cattermole’s wages and perhaps aging legs may mean relegation calls time on his Sunderland career.
Callum McManaman and Honeyman will complete the midfield and will have to work hard to contain the Fulham in the middle of the park. Such is the flair and ability of our opponents tonight that both will have to be at their best tonight.
McManaman, especially, dosen’t seem to last the full 90 minutes, so will Coleman be brave and have Elliot Embleton and Luke Molyneux on the bench, ready to bring on youthful exuberance and fresh legs? We can only hope.
Attack: Ashley Fletcher
With Josh Maja complaining of injury and Asoro likely to feature in place of McGeady, it is likely Ashley Fletcher will continue as the main striker tonight.
With two games to go, Fletcher must wonder what the future holds for him. A return to Middlesbrough? A summer sale? Perhaps another loan deal? Whatever the summer brings for the young man, ending the season strongly can’t but help his personal ambitions. He might even give the travelling fans something to shout about if he can find the net before he leaves.