Sunderland are back on home territory tonight for a cup-tie that, in reality, may be an opportunity for Jack Ross to rest a few players.
Winning becomes a habit if only you can get going. The dearth of victories on Wearside in recent years has been well documented, but the stats this season simply read ‘Played: One. Won: One.’ Tonight is a chance to make that two.
Normally playing a side from the league above isn’t much cause for optimism. There is always chance of an upset, of course, but the gap is normally justified. Last season, Sunderland had a terrible time against most of the teams in the Championship, so tonight is perhaps more hope than expectation.
Sheffield Wednesday have had their own struggles, however. A transfer embargo means they are relying largely on last season’s squad. Wednesday, for large periods of last season, weren’t very good. But for a couple of decent runs, they could easily have contested relegation with ourselves.
This game offers them the same opportunity - to rest a few and take a look at some younger players. There are rumours that Jos Luhukay will make six changes and promote a number of youngsters for the trip to the Stadium of Light.
Perhaps there is a chance of an upset, after all.
The Gaffer says...
I’m looking forward to it because part of the new experience, for me at the moment, is gauging oppositions.
From a Championship perspective, we played Middlesbrough, albeit for only 45 minutes in pre-season, so that was good. It gave me some insight into the quality that’s in that league and the good thing for me is that I’ve got a number that have played in that league, and have enough quality to play in that league as well.
It is in the middle of a busy schedule. You mentioned changes for Sheffield Wednesday and we have to assess our squad because we’re light as well. We play three league games in six days, following Thursday night.
There are a number of players that have been good within training and they may get more of an opportunity on Thursday night as well.
I think the fact that it’s been broadcast on television adds to it as well and it means the game won’t be flat in that respect. But, there is a balancing act, for me as a manager, to make. I have to be very careful because Josh and Chris, as almost an auxiliary striker, are all we have really, so we have to look after them ahead of these important league games.
There were always going to be changes tonight. The question is... how many?
We know Adam Matthews will be missing after Jack Ross confirmed he picked up a knock against Luton Town at the weekend. We are also aware of Ross’ comments regarding protecting certain players - Glenn Loovens and Josh Maja have been mentioned specifically, but it’s likely to include one or two others. The likes of Jon McLaughlin, who is a key player for us already, Bryan Oviedo and 16-year-old Bali Mumba may be given a breather.
The opportunity for game time will be welcomed by the likes of Luke O’Nien, who was withdrawn at half time against Charlton, Reece James and Ethan Robson, who are returning from injury, and Alim Öztürk, who only made the bench against Luton Town.
The game will come too soon for Dylan McGeough, but Luke Molyneux - who has been in all of the match day squads so far this season - may be in line for a start. Robbin Ruiter may be thrown into action to keep Jon McLaughlin fresh for Sunday, whilst youngsters Elliot Embleton and Denver Hume may feature at some stage.
For those who are given a chance, playing a side from the division above is the perfect platform to impress Ross and his staff and stake a claim for inclusion in the priority league games.
Sheffield Wednesday have been the subject of a transfer embargo due to falling foul of FFP rules. Despite their indifferent start to the season, tonight there is the expectation that a number of fringe players will get a chance to show their worth.
Manager Jos Luhukay has confirmed that Morgan Fox and Lucas Joao will definitely be missing for the hosts. Sunderland fans may remember Joao, as he had a tremendous game last time Wednesday visited these parts.
Youngsters Alex Hunt, Matt Penney and Fraser Preston are in the frame to make their Wednesday debuts while fringe players David Jones and Marco Matias could also be given a run-out.
Despite their problems, goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith, is feeling optimistic, whilst remaining cautious:
It (a win) would build a lot of confidence around the place as there has been a lot of negativity around the club with the embargo.
As players, if we can step up and create a bit of positivity, it can only benefit the club in all situations and maybe push us on in the league and get that feel-good factor around the place again.
They (Sunderland) have had a great start to the season and there is a lot of positivity about the place and I think they will be a tough opponent.
It is a great stadium, surface to play on and atmosphere and I am sure that they will make it as hard as possible for us.
The Treatment Table...
In a way, it’s easier to report who won’t be playing today.
Four players who started at Luton are unlikely to be play tonight. Bali Mumba, Josh Maja and Glen Loovens all look set to be rested, whilst Adam Matthews picked up a knock at Kenilworth Road, as Ross reported earlier this week:
Adam Matthews definitely won’t be involved. He actually did well to get through the game on Saturday, I thought he might have to go off at half-time, but he managed to get through the game. Hopefully, he should be back for Sunday.
Dylan McGeough continues his progress towards a competitive first team debut, but reports suggest it won’t be tonight. Progress has not been sufficient for him to be risked.
Donald Love, Tom Flanagan, Aiden McGeady, Jerome Sinclair, Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore all remain unavailable due to injury.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Sunderland have already sold 10,000 tickets for tonight’s game and there will be cash turnstiles open this evening.
For those not able to be there in person, the game is live on Sky Sports from 7pm.
There will be live audio provided on the club website by Nick Barnes, and you can tune in from around 7pm on SAFC.com.
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.