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Starting XI: EIGHT changes & TWO debuts - is this Sunderland’s team for the game with Wimbledon?

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We’re expecting Sunderland manager Jack Ross to make plenty of changes to the side that beat Manchester City U21s last time out - including handing two debuts to new recruits.

Sunderland AFC

GK: McLaughlin

Last time out we faced Manchester City’s U21s team and, once again, Robbin Ruiter kept a clean sheet in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Regardless of that, Jon McLaughlin is not only our first choice stopper but possibly even our best player, and he comes into the side tasked with keeping out a wounded yet strangely confident Wimbledon attack who despite propping up the rest of the division have just stuck four goals past Premier League opposition in the cup last weekend.

Sunderland need a win, and as much as the rest of the team could use the confidence boost that one would bring it’d be fair to say that McLaughlin’s performances have deserved more clean sheets - he’ll be hoping to put a stretch of them together as the Lads attempt to climb up the table and take advantage of Portsmouth’s faltering form.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Defence: Matthews, Dunne, Baldwin, James

Jimmy Dunne was signed to play regularly and despite having done absolutely nothing wrong in order to lose his place, I’ve opted to stick Jack Baldwin alongside Dunne at the heart of our defence today. To me it’s the most logical pairing and one that should have enough to deal with whatever Wimbledon can throw our way.

Back in at right back is Adam Matthews, who looked good against Manchester City U21s. I think retaining him in that spot is essential if we are to properly take advantage of the fact that Wimbledon play so narrow - he’s adept when bombing down the right hand side and with a big target to hit up top, we need our best crossers of the ball on the park.

Despite Denver Hume’s return to fitness and Bryan Oviedo’s collapsed move to West Brom, Reece James deserves to retain his spot at left back, particularly since he was the only man who put a dangerous cross into the box in our last league outing at Scunthorpe when he assisted Josh Maja’s goal.

Sunderland v Manchester City - U23 Checkatrade Trophy Quarter Final Match Photo by Mark Fletcher/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Central midfield: Leadbitter, O’Nien, Honeyman

Sunderland’s midfield has gone stale, and now is the time to shake things up.

Lee Cattermole is nursing a knock so is likely to miss out, which means there’s a space in the side for new-boy Grant Leadbitter, who of course re-joined the club from Middlesbrough earlier this week.

Alongside him should be the returning captain George Honeyman, who has undoubtedly been a miss, and the always-impressive Luke O’Nien, who has scrapped for his spot in the team and has without question outperformed the others contending with him for his space in the side.

Sunderland AFC

Attack: Morgan, Wyke, McGeady

Will Grigg isn’t yet fit enough to take part in this game but is fit enough to train, and should be in the squad that travels to Oxford. That means that today is Charlie Wyke’s big chance to prove why he should be in the team for the next game, and it goes without saying that he needs to start scoring goals.

Flanking him, in my opinion, should be Lewis Morgan and Aiden McGeady - two genuinely two-footed players that should cause the Wimbledon defence problems.

Morgan in particular has came to prove himself all over again and under a manager who knows his game well, he should flourish. He’s trained this week and with Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire not particularly impressing with their recent performances, he should be given the nod to freshen up a position which could definitely use it.