Goalkeeper: Robbin Ruiter
It will be interesting to see if Jack Ross opts to rest Jon McLaughlin tonight.
Robbin Ruiter has been on the bench for the opening two league games and has Championship experience, of course. Perhaps the best of a really bad bunch last season, Ruiter was arguably playing his ‘best’ football before his finger injury.
With league form the priority and three games in six days following this cup-tie, now would be a reasonable time to bring the Dutchman in.
Defence: Jack Baldwin, Glenn Loovens & Alim Öztürk
Jack Ross has confirmed that Adam Matthews will sit this one out following an injury picked up at Kenilworth Road at the weekend. With Donald Love and Tom Flanagan both out already, it does leave us somewhat exposed at right back.
Against Charlton, Ross switched to a back three to play to Sunderland’s attacking strengths, and perhaps that will be the case again tonight.
Jack Baldwin made an assured debut against Luton and will undoubtedly keep his place. It’s likely Alim Öztürk will return after dropping to the bench at the weekend. The third defender could be open to negotiation.
Glenn Loovens may be rested given Ross’ comments about managing the former Sheffield Wednesday captain, but is this the one he’d want to sit out? I’m sure that Loovens will be asking his manager if he can play in the game tonight! I’ll plump for him to starting... and maybe sitting out the Scunthorpe game on Sunday.
Midfield: Lynden Gooch, Luke O’Nien, Max Power, Reece James
If Ross does adopt a back-three then we’re likely to see four across the middle - two wing-backs and two holding midfielders.
Lynden Gooch played the role very well in the second half against Charlton and Bryan Oviedo excels in that position down the left. However, the attack-minded Reece James would be an alternative to the Costa Rican and allow Oviedo to rest before Sunday’s game. Given that James needs game time to get up to speed, having been out with an injury, tonight would be a perfect opportunity.
With Bali Mumba likely to receive a break, Luke O’Nien will no doubt be itching for another chance. The former Wycombe man has made a big step up in terms of league and club, so would benefit from having a more experienced head alongside him.
Max Power would be the main option, having impressed on his debut.
Alternatives could be Ethan Robson or Lee Cattermole. With reports that the former captain’s move to Bordeaux is now off, he could emerge as an alternative to Max Power to guide young O’Nien through this one.
Forwards: George Honeyman, Luke Molyneux & Chris Maguire
In attack, Ross could play one behind a pair of forwards, all with the ability to interchange.
Skipper George Honeyman would be the obvious choice for the more withdrawn role, to provide creativity and a willingness to run from deep. Elliot Embleton may be considered a viable alternative, of course.
Ahead of him, I’d expect Chris Maguire to play the senior role and lead the attack. His ability to drift into various positions would allow another to run beyond him and create a fluid approach. Luke Molyneux has played this type of advanced role at U23 level and could come into the frame following his involvement from the bench in league games.
This would allow Josh Maja, our only recognised fit striker, to be rested ahead of Sunday’s key league game against Scunthorpe United.