GK: Jon McLaughlin
It appears that Phil Parkinson has finally settled on a number one, with Jon McLaughlin seemingly the preferred option in the nets over the last few weeks.
The Scotland international was the only player who had previously played under Parkinson, so it was a surprise to see him originally hand the gloves to Lee Burge - but such was McLaughlin’s lack of form that many could understand it.
McLaughlin, however, has looked a lot better in the past few weeks and the hope is that he’ll continue with his upward trajectory, and the Christmas period will provide a little more joy on Wearside.
CB: Flanagan CB: Ozturk CB: Willis
Despite still being way under par, the Blackpool game was marginally better than the weeks prior, and thus Parkinson will likely to keep faith with his 3-4-2-1 formation.
Tom Flanagan has enjoyed a spell back in the side, and whilst he put in a very poor performance against Gillingham, he looked a little more comfortable playing on the right hand side of the three.
Alim Ozturk will remain in the centre, with his strength and brute force most likely needed against powerful former Sunderland man Daryl Murphy. Jordan Willis should return on the left in place of Laurens De Bock.
RM: O’Nien CM: Leadbitter CM: Power LM: Hume
One of these days Luke O’Nien is going to find a settled position and stay there for the rest of his career but, due to the inadequacies of others, he’ll remain on the right-hand side.
Denver Hume had another decent game against Blackpool and is growing in confidence each game, so will start on the left - athough whether Willis replacing De Bock will leave our left hand side open is something Parkinson needs to really think about.
In the middle, George Dobson’s red card in our last game keeps him out of the clash, so Max Power will likely be partnered by Grant Leadbitter in the middle, with Dylan McGeouch still injured.
RAM: Gooch LAM: Maguire
It was something of a surprise to see Chris Maguire start the last game after most assumed he would eventually fall foul to the Aiden McGeady treatment, but the manager talked up his hard work in training and Maguire rewarded him with an assist.
On the right-hand side there’s definitely a decision to be made.
Duncan Watmore has gradually got back into his groove recently and offers Sunderland pace they so desperately lack, but with Lynden Gooch returning to first team duty against Blackpool and a busy few days coming up, we’ll likely see the American take his place.
The pair will likely alternative over the next three games, with both players gradually getting back to full fitness.
ST: Charlie Wyke
There can be no denying that Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland look better with Wyke as the main striker - whether the style of football is good to watch is another thing, however.
The former Bradford striker returned to the team against Gillingham, and Sunderland immediately looked more dangerous. The truth is, if you’re going more direct, Wyke is pivotal to any success we have going forward.
His goal against Blackpool was very well taken and, had his header been an inch lower, he’d have bagged up a winner late in the game. It’s Charlie’s place to lose now.