Jack Ross takes his Sunderland side to Kenilworth Road this afternoon, hoping to build on last week’s last-gasp victory over Charlton Athletic.
Today is a different challenge for Ross and his team. Charlton had suffered play-off disappointment and have been beset by behind-the-scenes difficulties over the summer. Luton Town, on the other hand, are full of energy, drive and determination, having stylishly won promotion from League Two with an excellent home record.
Nathan Jones has a settled squad and is a manager that is growing his reputation in the game. This will be the Hatters first home game of the season, a sell-out against the big boys from the North-East, and Jones will be keen to show what he has built.
Jack Ross will equally go there is confident mood having seen his fledging side recover from going a goal down to secure victory last week.
The Gaffer says...
We’ve done an awful of preparation and been aware of what Luton’s strengths are, but that could change on matchday.
Last week was a really good test. Last week was one of the toughest home games we could have started with and this will be one of the toughest away fixtures. It’s their first home game and they had a good home record last season. If we can come through these games with positive results, then from a morale perspective and a belief perspective, it should leave us in a good position.
Every single week is a good challenge, whether that be at home or away. I think, For us, it is about strengthening the belief in the group that if the fundamentals are there to win a game in terms of their desire, their work and their intensity out of possession we have a chance.
We have great quality in our group, but if we can ensure that the fundamentals are there then it is up to them to then trust in their own ability to let their quality come through.
If they can do that then we will win more games than we lose
Sunderland are making headway in completing the squad that Jack built to compete for promotion this season, with Max Power the latest addition. However his choices remain somewhat limited by injury and squad integration.
Jon McLaughlin has shown his class and will resume duties in goal. There are options in central defence, where Jack Baldwin has had a week to get to know his new team-mates. With Glen Loovens and Alim Öztürk starting last week, there may be a case to allowing the pair to develop the relationship, or Jack Ross may opt to swap one of them out. Ross spoke about how Baldwin has settled into the club this week and Öztürk, particularly, may see his place come under threat after a rusty performance last week.
One change will be forced on last week’s defence as Donald Love is out until September with an ankle injury. Bryan Oviedo is likely to start today after coming on last week and showing his undoubtedly quality.
Bali Mumba started the season in place of the injured Dylan McGeough and showed great maturity, operating just in front of the defence. Luke O’Nien, as the box-to-box midfielder alongside Mumba, was withdrawn at half-time in a tactical switch that ultimately won the game for Sunderland. Today, Ross could either offer the former Wycombe man another chance or turn to new signing Max Power.
Power has a wealth of experience in this league and, playing against a side tipped to challenge for a promotion, that could be invaluable. A lot will depend on how Ross’ plans can accommodate a late change in personnel in this crucial area.
We don’t expect any changes offensively. Given their performances last week, it’s unlikely that Chris Maguire, goalscorer Lynden Gooch and captain George Honeyman will sit this one out. Similarly, Josh Maja has little competition up front, with Jerome Sinclair joining Charlie Wyke in the treatment room. Continuity is key, at this stage of the season, so Ross is unlikely to make more than the odd change today.
Luton Town are managed by Nathan Jones, one of the names linked to succeed Simon Grayson as Sunderland manager last season. Having achieved promotion with the Hatters in May, Jones is keen to pit his wits in League One.
During the summer, Jones retained a number of sought-after players - such as defender Dan Potts - whilst adding a number of new players to the ranks. Three signings arrived from Championship clubs to improve their squad: Barnsley right-back Matty Pearson along with midfielders Jorge Grant from Nottingham Forest and Andrew Shinnie from Birmingham.
Today he will welcome back leading scorer Danny Hylton, who missed their opening day defeat at Portsmouth due to suspension. The 29-year-old has already scored 50 goals in just 90 appearances for Luton, and captain Alan Sheehan can’t wait for his return:
No defence in League One is going to want to play against Hylts, he’s a nightmare to play against, as he’s a bundle of energy.
The boys did really well, the two lads upfront, they filled in, but obviously Hylts is a huge player for us, there’s no getting around that.
The Treatment Table...
Dylan McGeough and Reece James are both back in training, but will be eased in gently and probably won’t make the squad today.
Tom Flanagan (knee) and Ethan Robson (groin) also missed the opening day game against Charlton and remain sidelined today, whilst Aiden McGeady, Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore are all a little further from being available for the first team.
Two players have been added to the injury list, due to injuries picked up last Saturday. Donald Love (ankle ligaments) and Jerome Sinclair (hamstring) are both likely to be out until September.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Sunderland have sold out their allocation of tickets for today’s game, prompting the Luton Town ticket office to suspend online sales this week. Our hosts today are expecting a full house, with the last few tickets being snapped up as the week drew to a close.
For fans travelling down, Luton have provided a matchday guide, which can be downloaded here.
There will be live audio provided on the club website by Nick Barnes, and you can tune in from around 2pm on SAFC.com.
International supporters will be able to buy a match pass for the game to watch it live via SAFSee. Click here to find out more about how you can watch the game.
We’ll also be providing live commentary via our Twitter page and, after the game, there’ll be a match report and player ratings article on the site - so keep an eye out for that.