GK: Jon McLaughlin
The big Scotland international managed to make it three clean sheets in a row for the first time since he joined the club in last week’s draw with Doncaster Rovers.
McLaughlin, who has had a tough season, has recently shown the high standards he set for himself in his debut season on Wearside, and looks every bit the goalkeeper we came to know and love during last term.
CB: Willis CB: Ozturk CB: Lynch
I thought Phil Parkinson might have opted to bring in new boy Bailey Wright last week, but ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ - and I’ll think he’ll do the same again this evening after another clean sheet.
Jordan Willis is hugely important to Sunderland in both defence and attack, producing assured defensive displays on the right hand side of a back three, whilst also giving Parkinson’s side another dimension in attack. He’s one of the first names on the team sheet.
Alim Ozturk appears to be first choice when it comes to the centre of the back three, and he’ll rightly retain his place as he enjoys his longest run in the side since his move to Sunderland last summer.
Joel Lynch has plenty of doubters, and not without reason, but has looked assured in the past fortnight, perhaps acutely aware his position in the squad in under threat. However, he looked steady against Doncaster, so he should be allowed the opportunity to continue on the left-hand side of the back three.
RM: O’Nien CM: Dobson CM: Power LM: Hume
Parkinson has confirmed new signing Josh Scowen is part of his squad for the trip to Prenton Park, but we’d be surprised to see either George Dobson or Max Power dropped, despite their fairly quiet performances in last week’s draw.
Power has been in great form since he was handed the on-pitch captaincy, and it would be harsh to drop Dobson after one quiet display considering how good he was in the run up to it.
Luke O’Nien is the first choice right wing-back/midfielder and it’ll take a lot for him to be dislodged, and the same can be said of the in-form Denver Hume on the opposite flank.
RAM: Gooch LAM: Maguire
Both Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire were unusually quiet in last week’s draw with Doncaster, and it showed in the end result just how important both of them when on-song are to Sunderland’s successful attacking play.
Duncan Watmore replaced Maguire late in the second period, but with the flame-haired winger picking up a knock in training, the Scottish midfielder is likely to continue in the advanced midfield role - and probably would have done regardless of Watmore’s injury.
As for Gooch, he’s been the stand out player of 2020 so far, so he’ll be the first name on Parky’s team sheet at the moment.
CF: Kyle Lafferty
I honestly felt we would start with the big Northern Irishman on Friday, but can’t say I was too surprised to see Charlie Wyke playing ahead of him.
Wyke was poor against Doncaster, and many fans commented on how dangerous we looked when Lafferty entered the field, and I think that will play on the manager’s mind.
The new signing has to start at some point and I think he will see tonight’s visit to a demoralised Tranmere as the perfect opportunity to get him involved and get him scoring.