GK: Lee Burge
Big Jon Mac has been shakier than his usual self in the opening two games of the season, so to keep him on his toes going into the League One campaign we’re likely to see summer signing Lee Burge make his first start of the season.
The former Coventry City stopper had a decent pre-season and looks an able deputy, so it’ll be good to see if he can transfer his summer form onto the competitive stage.
DCR: Willis, DC: Ozturk, DCL: Baldwin
Although it hasn’t worked in the opening two games I’m expecting the manager to give the three at the back formation one last try - although he will likely take Tom Flanagan out of the firing line after two poor performances from the Northern Ireland defender.
Jordan Willis is likely to move across to right central defence, with Alim Ozturk and Jack Baldwin making their first starts of the season in a bid to impress Jack Ross - doing so could cement their spot in the side when we face Pompey on Saturday.
RWB: O’Nien, CM: Power, CM: Leadbitter, LWB: Gooch
Max Power has been nursing an injury since coming off in the play-off final in late May and both player and manager will be wanting to get minutes into his legs, so we’re almost certain to see the former Wigan Athletic man take his place in midfield.
New club captain Grant Leadbitter has not kicked a ball in anger yet and he’ll be another needing to get out on the pitch tonight. The midfield will almost certainly involve these two.
Luke O’Nien is likely to take up a place on the right of the four, with Lynden Gooch filling in over on the left in place of the injured Denver Hume. Whilst the obvious choice in Hume’s place might have been youngster Jake Hackett, he played a full ninety for Sunderland’s U23s team away at Stoke on Monday night and, as such, is not likely to be involved.
AM: Maguire AM: Embleton
Although both players could be classed as first team regulars this season, neither of them have completed a full ninety minutes as yet so I would expect Jack Ross to give both players the nod tomorrow night.
There’s a train of thought that would assume Ross may keep Maguire fresh for Saturday afternoon’s huge clash against Portsmouth, but he has simply not had as many minutes as he’d like, and the Sunderland manager is likely to give him a good run out tonight.
Embleton can consider himself unlucky to be dropped following the Oxford United game and, after signing his new contract only weeks ago, he will want to show he is the man to create opportunities for our misfiring front-man Will Grigg this term.
ST: Will Grigg
With Charlie Wyke injured and Marc McNulty likely to be given the night off, the sensible choice would be to give our £3 million man a chance to get his name on the score sheet and inject some confidence into his bones - God knows he needs it.
He notched at the Wham Stadium last term as we overcome Stanley 3-0, and tonight gives Grigg the opportunity to put right some wrongs and kick start his season with minimal pressure on the game, and thus, his shoulders.