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STARTING XI: Sunderland could make TWO defensive changes ahead of their encounter with Oxford

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Jack Ross will surely know that if a system ain’t broke, then there’s no need to fix it. That being said, he likely won’t have a choice but to tamper with things on the back line - how will that impact the overall side we field against Oxford United?

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Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin

If there is one player in this entire side who need not fear for his place in this team, it’s Jon McLaughlin.

He has been unfortunate to have earned just the one clean sheet - against Scunthorpe - and perhaps a worry could be that we have conceded quite a few goals from set-pieces. However, McLaughlin has been fantastic so far compared to the jokers we had last season, and has often kept us ahead in games or stopped us falling further behind.

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Defence: Oviedo, Ozturk, Baldwin, Love

Defence is the one area of the side where, if you are being picky, we currently look rather weak. When everyone is eventually fit, we should be very solid - but Donald Love and Alim Ozturk are two players that fans rightly have fears about.

Bryan Oviedo, though, should be welcomed back to the starting eleven after he came on last weekend against Wimbledon and was one of the substitutions that shifted the momentum back into Sunderland’s favour.

Ozturk makes his way back into the team and while he has been shaky this season, he didn’t do an awful lot wrong when he came on last weekend against Wimbledon. Hopefully he can give us a strong (or at least uncontroversial) ninety minutes here and stifle our fears about him being a bit of a liability.

Jack Baldwin has arguably been our signing of the summer, and he will be expected to marshall his backline and keep up his strong form since moving from Peterborough.

At right back, Love is expected to start as Adam Matthews is not yet fully fit. He will be expected to perform better than he has recently as he has struggled at times this season.


Central midfield: Cattermole, Power

If Jack Ross wanted selection headaches then he has them in abundance with his options in central midfield. The unexpected upturn in form of Lee Cattermole has been more than welcome, though it does make picking his midfield far harder. A great problem to have, really.

Dylan McGeouch could consider himself unlucky not to start after contributing superbly last weekend when he came on against Wimbledon, and Ethan Robson too will be on the outskirts, wondering if he will ever break into this team, such is the good form of Cattermole and Power.

However, Power and Catts have been superb together and deserve to start the game against Oxford and, should we be struggling, we will have plenty of midfield options to change the game in our favour.


Attacking midfield: Gooch, Honeyman, Maguire

The attacking midfield trio of Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman and Chris Maguire have been sensational all season and there is no reason for Ross to be tempted to make any changes.

Maguire and Honeyman both scored last week while Gooch has been a revelation down the right side, torturing the full-backs of this division.

To those calling for Honeyman to be dropped, I wouldn’t hold your breath. He has been superb so far this season and has the captain’s armband - it would be quite a call by Ross if he were to suddenly take him out the side when he has led an unbeaten team that’s just won three on the bounce.

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Striker: Josh Maja

Josh Maja may finally have some striking competition this weekend as Charlie Wyke could earn a place on the bench. That will be music to the ears of Sunderland fans and Maja himself as he has had the weight of the club’s striker expectations on his shoulders so far this season.

Maja though has done marvellously, and it will take a large downturn in form for him to lose his place in the starting eleven. Wyke will need to be patient, and it will be nice to see Sunderland not rush their star player into the team for a change!

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images