GK: Jon McLaughlin
Jon McLaughlin had a quiet night by recent standards on Tuesday, and there was nothing he could do about the fantastic goal from Armand Gnanduillet.
Sunderland’s Mr Reliable hasn’t had as many clean sheets as he has deserved this year, something which he will be looking to put right against an out of sorts Accrington side which hasn’t scored a league goal in 2019.
Defence: Matthews, Baldwin, Dunne, James
With both Jack Baldwin and Jimmy Dunne scoring in the past week, Jack Ross will surely give the two a chance to continue to build upon their partnership at the heart of Sunderland’s defence. The latter has improved with every game in red and white, and supporters are starting to see glimpses of why Burnley rate him so highly.
At full back, the omission of Adam Matthews against Blackpool was a slight surprise - especially given Jack Ross’ admission that it was for tactical, not fitness, reasons. However, I’m expecting the Welsh international to come back into the starting line up since Luke O’Nien offered little in his place.
At left back many are clamouring for the return of Bryan Oviedo, but injury ruled him out of Tuesday’s game so it’s safe to assume that Friday night may come too soon for him. Furthermore, Reece James seems to be Jack Ross number one choice at left back - especially without the option of Denver Hume.
Midfield: Leadbitter, O’Nien and Honeyman
Jack Ross played a different type of midfield trio against Blackpool - option for two energetic “runners” to partner the deep-lying Grant Leadbitter, and since the manager was largely happy with the performance he should continue with this formula.
Lynden Gooch was poor on Tuesday, albeit in an unfamiliar position, but Matthews’ return at right back would allow Luke O’Nien a well-deserved run out in his natural position. The former Wycombe man certainly has the energy to play the role Jack Ross gave to Gooch, and tonight could be the best opportunity O’Nien has had to cement a position in the starting eleven.
Grant Leadbitter hasn’t missed a minute since joining from Middlesbrough and, although Dylan McGeouch may feel hard done by, Jack Ross shows no signs of dropping a man who has assisted Sunderland’s last three goals and offers quality delivery from set pieces.
George Honeyman is Sunderland’s captain and probably one of the first names on the team sheet - for all his faults he takes up effective positions to line midfield and attack, something which Sunderland’s other players fail to do.
Wingers: Gooch and Morgan
As mentioned before, Gooch was poor against Blackpool in central midfield - however, with Duncan Watmore unlikely to be ready to start two games in such quick succession, Jack Ross may decided to give the American a chance to redeem himself in his natural right-wing position.
On the other side, Aiden McGeady has been poor in the last two games - and even before that he tends to pop up with a moment of quality rather than consistently contributing to a good 90 minute performance.
Sunderland’s improved performance on Tuesday was largely down to the directness of Watmore on the right - and since this worked the introduction of the more direct Morgan at McGeady’s expense should be something for Ross to consider. And after all, I doubt many league one teams will have an impact sub of McGeady’s quality to call upon if needed.
Striker: Will Grigg
Sunderland’s most expensive missed two good chances to win Sunderland the game on Tuesday night, but the positive for Sunderland fans should be that a player of Will Grigg’s abilities in front of goal will not miss chances like that for much longer.
I have always been of the opinion that the performances of a striker should only be a worry if they cease to get opportunities, because as long as they are getting in the right positions they always have a chance to put the ball in the back of the net.
Let’s hope Grigg is more clinical in Sunderland’s second home game of the week.