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Starting XI: SIX CHANGES? Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Man City U21s tonight?

Jack Ross suggested that he would play a strong side this evening as Sunderland look to take on step closer to a Wembley final in the EFL Trophy. Is this the team he’ll field tonight?

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Goalkeeper: Robbin Ruiter

The Dutch goalie has been a strong presence in the club’s EFL Trophy expedition so far this season, and it’s likely that Ruiter will start between the sticks again tonight.

To be fair, Ruiter has been more than dependable when called upon in the competition this season. He has been calm and collected on the ball, and has made several decent saves in order to help the Lads to progress into the knockout stages of the competition.

City’s young guns could well prove to be a dangerous side, and Ross will be hopeful that the former Utrecht keeper is in good form this evening.

Sunderland AFC via Getty images.

Defence: Matthews, Dunne, Baldwin, Oviedo

Sunderland could well name what looks an impressive defence this evening, though the players tipped to start all need time on the pitch.

Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo are both returning from knocks, and need time to get back up to speed ahead of an important run-in for the club. Jack Baldwin missed out this weekend due to illness, but if fully recovered then Ross will likely give him game time in order to rest Tom Flanagan. Jimmy Dunne will also likely be given another opportunity to settle into the side after a solid opening display this past weekend.

This would be a strong defence if named, but they will likely come up against some serious young talent. Pep Guardiola was annoyed that this game was scheduled just a day before his side’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Burton - a game in which they hold a 9-0 first-leg lead - but it will be interesting to see what kind of side is named tomorrow evening. Will Pep save his more mature youngsters for the Burton game, or will he line them up at the SoL this evening?

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Cattermole & McGeouch

Jack Ross has mentioned recently just how important he views Lee Cattermole to be. His presence is valued as much as his talent, and Ross will likely be keen to ensure he has Cattermole on the pitch as a leader.

Max Power could well be rested in favour of Dylan McGeouch, who was unlucky to be dropped at the weekend after a couple of impressive showings.

In McGeouch Sunderland would have a midfielder capable of dictating and recycling possession - something that we could well need this evening. The Scotland international is in need of minutes and will be eager to play again this evening in order to stake a claim for a return to the first-team’s league exploits.

The absence of George Honeyman continues to be a loss, however, and there is a chance that Ross might look to strengthen his midfield with a third body in the middle - tonight likely won’t be the time to experiment.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Forwards: Maguire, McGeady, Wyke, Maja

Jack Ross will be keen to start the game on the front foot tomorrow evening, and a strong defence could well be complimented by an equally impressive forward line.

In Maguire and McGeady Sunderland have flair in abundance, but it’s imperative that they both be allowed to explore wide areas rather than pigeonholing one into the number ten spot.

That space should be occupied by either Wyke or Maja, and it will be interesting to see if Ross properly tests the City defence with the power of Wyke coupled with the sheer predatory instincts of Maja - who will be looking to add to his already impressive tally of goals this season.

Benji Kimpioka will be a good option from the bench, and could well be brought on in order to run at a tired City defence.

Ultimately, though, Sunderland will be looking to make a statement against the competition’s final academy side, and Ross will be looking to his forward line to show our desire to make it to Wembley.

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