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STARTING XI: Is this the Sunderland side that Jack Ross will select for today’s game with Luton?

Is this the Sunderland side that Jack Ross will pick for today’s difficult game away at fellow promotion hopefuls Luton Town?

Bryan Oviedo: Set to return to the Starting XI?
Image: Getty Images

Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin

Sunderland’s debutant goalkeeper was very good against Charlton and his performance, particularly in the first half, providing a sturdy platform for the team to gain the three points.

McLaughlin could do nothing about Lyle Taylor’s penalty, but he denied Charlton four or five clear chances which would have put the game beyond us. His confidence to come off his line and command his area is something we lacked last season.

Our defenders clearly knew they had a sound custodian behind them and this helped the team play out from the back.

Jon McLaughlin: Sunderland’s Number One
Image: Getty Images

Defence: Adam Matthews, Jack Baldwin, Glen Loovens & Bryan Oviedo

With Donald Love likely to be out for a month with ankle ligament damage he picked up during the Charlton game, there will be an enforced change to the defensive line this afternoon.

Oviedo replaced the full-back during the season opener and showed his undoubted quality, especially in the second half. His ball in for Gooch’s winner summed up his afternoon; composed, intent and sheer quality - he is surely a shoe-in for the left back spot with Reece James still out through injury.

Matthews will no doubt switch flanks to his more natural right-back position, but will Jack Ross tinker with his centre-halves? Jack Baldwin hadn’t trained much with his new team-mates last week and settled for a place on the subs bench. However, Ross has spoken about Baldwin’s development this week and he is clearly in contention for a start today.

Against Charlton, Öztürk looked sluggish at times and Loovens was clearly caught out for pace on occasion. Whilst the former Sheffield Wednesday captain redeemed himself through his reading of the game and looked far more composed in a back three, Öztürk is perhaps the the one looking over his shoulder.

I suspect Jack Ross has seen enough in the last seven or eight days to suggest a change may prove beneficial.

Adam Matthews played a key role last weekend
Image: Getty Images

Central Midfield: Luke O’Nien & Bali Mumba

With the club keen to move Lee Cattermole on and injuries ruling out youngster Ethan Robson and Scottish international Dylan McGeough, Jack Ross could name an unchanged midfield today - or he could turn to new signing Max Power.

Brought in on Thursday afternoon and having trained with the squad yesterday, Power could provide Ross with food for thought. Luke O’Nien was withdrawn last weekend and perhaps Power challenges his role the most. O’Nien played against Luton last season, whilst at Wycombe, but Power knows how to compete at this level, having won titles with Wigan in 2016 and again this May.

I suspect, given Ross’ comments about wanting to integrate Baldwin before throwing him in, the same may apply to Power. That being the case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Nien given another chance.

Whoever gets the nod will need to impress against a Luton side who are high on confidence, boasting an impressive home record in recent years, and tipped for good things this season.

We are expecting Bali Mumba to retain his place after an outstanding performance last week. Not only as a 16-year-old playing alongside seasoned professionals, but for the fact he controlled the game for large parts.

One misplaced pass aside, the quality and ease at which he kept possession and found a team-mate shows we have a footballer on our hands. The teenager stands a great chance of continuing his meteoric rise today.

Bali Mumba: Sunderland’s talented teenager
Image: Getty Images

Attacking Midfield: Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman & Chris Maguire

The attacking midfield trio were simply outstanding in the second half last weekend. New captain Honeyman, like those around him, struggled at first, but once the space opened up he really came into his own. Honeyman has split supporters since his emergence, but he is a player who drives us on and gives his all. These qualities are undoubtedly why he was handed the armband and he showed them in abundance in the second half.

Around him, Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire showed their quality. Gooch was a constant threat from the right and Maguire was industrious and composed (penalty aside). Gooch’s obvious disappointment at his air-shot from the 96th minute corner quickly turned to joy, as he refused to give up and found space for an excellent header from Oviedo’s cross.

The trio’s interplay was something we haven’t seen for a while, as a more fluid and supporting midfield controlled the game after the restart. Hopefully there’ll be more of the same from the off today.

Lynden Gooch was highly impressive against Charlton
Image: Getty Images

Striker: Josh Maja

With Jermone Sinclair out until late September at the earliest, and Charlie Wyke not likely to play much of a part in the next couple of weeks, Josh Maja will continue to lead the line for Sunderland.

Maja is a player who benefits from having support around him. Last year, his relationship with Joel Asoro helped him perform far better than when asked to operate as a sole striker. Last week we saw the same.

Isolated and ineffective in the first half, Maja was a different player with Sinclair alongside him, Gooch and Oviedo making the pitch wider and Maguire snapping away just behind. If Sunderland are to follow up last week’s victory, we need to ensure the young forward has support today.

Josh Maja scored Sunderland’s first goal of the season
Image: Getty Images

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