Goalkeeper - Jon McLaughlin
Jon McLaughlin just saved the first ever league penalty for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light - he cannot be dropped! Last weekend saw a far more steady performance from our number one, who had been slightly shaky in the couple of games beforehand.
Maybe the superb performance of Robbin Ruiter against Stoke in the Checkatrade Trophy helped push the ex-Hearts man up a level?
Either way, he keeps his place for today’s trip to his old club Burton, where he’ll be hoping to show just what he’s capable of in front of a home crowd that grew used to him over many years.
Defence - Oviedo, Baldwin, Loovens, Flanagan
If we’re being fair, rookie left-back Denver Hume doesn’t deserve to lose his place in the starting eleven, particularly since he gave two very good performances last week in the games against Stoke City U21s and Fleetwood.
The issue, of course, is that star-man Bryan Oviedo is now back in contention after returning from a long and grueling trip away on international duty with Costa Rica - thus giving the Sunderland manager a massive selection headache to contend with.
Will Oviedo be in the right state to play? How much training will he have had? Factor in that we also have Reece James available, and it’s safe to say that someone will end up disappointed with not being in the squad that takes part this afternoon.
Ross has a big decision to make here and I do not envy him. I did toy with the idea of moving Oviedo to left wing and leaving Hume at full back but I am not sure if that will work.
If Oviedo is ready to go, then surely he starts.
Jack Baldwin and Glenn Loovens have been very good together so far this season and should get the nod again, provided of course that neither has a knock we do not know about.
Tom Flanagan gets a chance to make the right back spot his own this weekend after Adam Matthews and Donald Love have failed to take their chances to solidify their place in the side. Flanagan is a far better defender than both those players and should help to shore us us up on set pieces. Plus, like McLaughlin, he has the added incentive of playing against his former team.
Central midfield - McGeouch, Cattermole
Last weekend was a mixed bag for these two as they struggled in the first thirty minutes before getting to grips with the game.
There could even be an argument that Cattermole deserved the man of the match award for his second-half performance in which he hauled Sunderland’s players up by the scruff of their necks in order to try and win the three points.
Dylan McGeouch still looks a bit off the pace and he struggled with the high press in last weekend’s game. That being said, it was his first league start and he will only get better with more game time.
Could it be that these two players are too similar? Possibly, but they deserve the chance to play together a bit more before we decide whether they are a good fit and complement each other.
Until Max Power returns from suspension their places in the side will go relatively unchallenged, and with that in mind they have a real chance to establish themselves as Jack Ross’ first choice midfield pairing.
Attacking midfield - Sinclair, Honeyman, Gooch
A change! Yes, it seems likely that Chris Maguire may well drop out this weekend after some recent below-par performances on the left hand side of Sunderland’s midfield.
In his place we’re plumping for Watford loanee Jerome Sinclair, who has looked very good during his cameo appearances so far this season in a red and white shirt.
I’ve never been a fan of playing players out of position, but Sinclair has played in this role often during his relatively short and inexperienced career. With the attack-minded Bryan Oviedo operating in behind him, the ex-Liverpool attackers should get plenty of opportunities to get forward and support the centre forward.
George Honeyman divides opinion amongst Sunderland supporters, but the facts are that he created our best chances last weekend and got an assist. Aside from that, he’s our captain and because of that the manager will keep faith in him even when he isn’t performing at his peak.
On the right-hand side of Sunderland’s attack will be Lynden Gooch, who had a frustrating game last weekend as he almost tried too hard to create chances for the team. That being said, he’s been outstanding this season and represents our best chance of manufacturing opportunities from nothing.
Striker - Josh Maja
The London-born teenager continued his fine start to the season with a rather superb finish against Fleetwood Town last weekend - his fifth league goal of the season.
Whilst his all-round game isn’t perhaps as good as some of us might like, he’s putting the ball in the back of the net more than anyone else and he’s earned the right to keep his place in the side - although, he must sustain his form as there are very good backup options waiting in the wings should his performances dip.
It’s a nice problem to have.
Whilst Charlie Wyke will be disappointed that he’s not started a league game yet since signing from Bradford in the summer, he’ll get his turn eventually. For now, though, it’s up to Josh Maja to keep scoring goals and keep ensuring that Jack Ross sees him as his first choice centre forward.