GK: Lee Burge
Despite a poor mistake in the last game against Burton Albion, Burge is likely to keep his place in the nets.
It looks like the summer signing is now firmly established as our number one goalkeeper, playing every minute he has been available for since the arrival of Phil Parkinson.
With Jon McLaughlin out of contract in merely six months, Burge’s place is his to lose and he has looked solid if unspectacular during his spell in the nets.
RB: McLaughlin CB: Willis CB: Flanagan LB: Hume
Sunderland’s defence seems unable to keep a clean sheet and Parkinson’s lack of defensive options may see him forced to continue with players he may not have in other circumstances.
Former Millwall right-back Conor McLaughlin has a severely disappointing start to life on Wearside, but is likely to start again on Saturday, with Luke O’Nien required further up the field. On the opposite flank will be Denver Hume, who has looked far more solid than summer arrival Laurens De Bock.
We think they’ll be a change in the centre of defence, however, with Joel Lynch looking devoid of confidence over the past few games, culminating in a terrible second half performance against Burton. We think Parky will opt to try Tom Flanagan alongside Jordan Willis.
CM: Leadbitter CM: Dobson
With Max Power suspended and Dylan McGeouch completely out of favour, the midfield picks itself. George Dobson sat out the defeat to Burton with suspension and will come straight back into the side to replace Power after establishing himself as first choice under the new manager.
Despite calls for him to be dropped, we’re also likely to see captain Grant Leadbitter in the starting eleven. The local lad has, much like many others, been in poor form this term but Parkinson will be looking to his skipper to produce the experience, nous and leadership required to get through a tough slog down south.
RM: Watmore CAM: O’Nien LM: McGeady
Luke O’Nien appears to be the only player capable of performing at the level expected recently, and despite his ability to fit in well at full-back, he is far more effective in the number ten role. With O’Nien in the ten, we’re much more dangerous in the opposition box, so Parkinson has to keep the former Watford youngster in midfield and hold back the temptation to push him into defence.
It’s been evident that Sunderland are severely lacking in pace, so Duncan Watmore should be guaranteed his spot on the right-hand side of an advanced midfield three, with Aiden McGeady continuing on the left since it’s probably a little to early for the return of Lynden Gooch.
ST: Charlie Wyke
I think Parkinson is going to throw him straight into the fold after confirming he is fit to return. He’s been out for well over a month, but it’s obvious that the new boss is desperate to get him back into his starting XI.
Will it make a difference? Maybe. Will Grigg is just not right for Parkinson’s system and he’s looking drained week-by-week, whereas Wyke has the physique for a battle and we’ll likely have more chance of the ball sticking when we go long.
Marc McNulty is also fit, but we think Parky won’t be able to resist the temptation of starting the big striker.