GK: Jon McLaughlin
The only current Black Cats player to have played under new boss Phil Parkinson is Scotland international goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.
The former Burton Albion stopper will be boosted by his first clean sheet of the season after keeping goal in Scotland’s 6-0 win over San Marino, and he’ll be looking to fend off competition from Lee Burge once and for all.
Despite a difficult start to the campaign under Jack Ross, the 32-year-old will also be confident of rediscovering his form under a manager whom he gained promotion and reached a cup final with whilst on the books of Bradford City.
RB: C. McLaughlin CB: Willis CB: Lynch LB: Hume
The back four has been a huge problem for Sunderland this season, and one of Parkinson’s first tasks will be to shore up a defence yet to keep a league clean sheet.
With that in mind, we expect the new manager to opt to a flat back four with each player in their natural position, meaning Conor McLaughlin will keep his place after a good week away on international duty.
On the opposite flank, Laurens De Bock’s poor performance at Lincoln City, combined with Denver Hume’s impressive performance in the EFL Trophy, will likely see a change at left back. Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch have looked far and wide our best options in the centre, so there’ll likely be no changes there.
CM: Leadbitter CM: Power
I’m expecting that Phil Parkinson will be looking to shore up the midfield in a bid to protect the defence a little more - perhaps meaning that he’ll start with club captain Grant Leadbitter in the centre of the park.
Alongside him is likely to be Max Power. He’s been in good form, barring the Lincoln City debacle, and it would be harsh to remove him after one average performance.
RM: Gooch CAM: O’Nien LM: McGeady
Who Parky goes with as part of an advance midfield three could be very interesting.
Chris Maguire hasn’t shone in recent weeks and could be replaced in the starting eleven by a fully-fit Aiden McGeady, whereas Lynden Gooch will likely be preferred on the right flank for his work rate.
Luke O’Nien should get the nod on his return to Adams Park in the number ten role. The former Wycombe man has been played in far too many positions already this season and if Parkinson wants to get the best out of him then surely he’ll look to play the 24-year-old in his natural position.
CF: Will Grigg
With Charlie Wyke available, Phil Parkinson is also boosted by the return of fully fit Marc McNulty, but I think he’ll opt for former Wigan Athletic man Will Grigg at Adams Park.
He may not be on fire currently, but Parkinson likely knows that getting the Northern Ireland international fit and firing could be key to his hopes of promotion this term and will be hoping that a fresh start, coupled with his goal against Grimsby Town is exactly what Grigg requires and is likely to give him a chance to kick-start his Sunderland career.