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THREE CHANGES: Is this the Sunderland starting XI that Phil Parkinson will pick v Southend?

Duncan Watmore and Chris Maguire return to the squad for Sunderland’s game against The Shrimpers, but will they come straight back into Phil Parkinson’s starting XI?

Oxford United v Sunderland AFC - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

GK: Jon McLaughlin

After returning to the side during the midweek tie at the Kassam Stadium, Jon McLaughlin is likely to start his first league game since the defeat at Lincoln City last month.

He didn’t do much wrong on his return in midweek, and with Lee Burge still out for the foreseeable future he’ll almost certainly start this afternoon’s hugely importance game against Southend United.

Oxford United v Sunderland AFC - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

RB: O’Nien CB: Willis CB: Lynch LB: Hume

Sunderland reverted to a back three on Tuesday evening but will surely go back to a back four against Southend United this afternoon, looking to dominate proceedings.

Although Northern Ireland full back Conor McLaughlin returned to the side in midweek, it’s likely Luke O’Nien will come back in on the right-hand side, whilst Denver Hume will continue on the opposite flank after some decent showings recently.

Tom Flanagan will be a casualty of the change in formation, allowing Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch to continue in the centre for the fifth league game in a row.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

CM: Dobson CM: Power

One of the main issues new manager Phil Parkinson must address is finding a midfield that can play well together consistently.

Jack Ross’ tendency to change his middle two created a lack of cohesion in the middle and Parkinson will be hopefully be looking to bring a more settle spine to the team.

George Dobson has benefited from the recent game time he has received, putting in his best performance in a Sunderland shirt on Tuesday and thus should continue in the centre.

Partnering him will be Max Power, who despite his relatively inconsistent form seems to be favoured by the new boss ahead of Grant Leadbitter and Dylan McGeouch. As noted previously, Power is arguably our best midfielder on his day and should start in a game we are looking to control from the off.

Oxford United v Sunderland AFC - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

RM: Watmore CAM: Maguire LM: McGeady

Lynden Gooch is still out with an ankle problem, so Duncan Watmore should return to the right hand side after being rested in midweek. Chris Maguire was another who was afforded an enforced rest - his suspension ruling him out of the loss at Oxford. He is likely to return the starting eleven to continue in his favoured number ten role.

On the left hand side there’s been plenty of debate surrounding Aiden McGeady and whether his position in the team should be under threat, but the Irishman is likely to keep his place.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Alan Hayward/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

CF: Marc McNulty

In the lone striker’s role it’s a straightforward choice between Will Grigg and Marc McNulty, and I think Parky will opt for the Scottish loanee to lead the line this afternoon.

Although Sparky missed the crucial penalty in Tuesday’s penalty shoot-out defeat, he’ll be buoyed by his instinctive finish that handed Sunderland a lifeline at the Kassam Stadium, having failed to find the net since our 1-1 draw at home to Rotherham United.

There’s a valid argument that dropping Grigg would be an error, such was his improvement in form since the new manager arrived, but he looked bereft of confidence after skying his penalty in Tuesday’s penalty-shoot out and will most likely be used as a late option from the bench, if required.

Oxford United v Sunderland AFC - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

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