GK: Jon McLaughlin
Big Jon was unlucky not to keep his second clean sheet on Wednesday, only conceding due to a ludicrous penalty given to Fleetwood Town.
His comments in midweek regarding his contract situation were alarming and maybe explain why his form has dipped so much this season, but to be fair to the Scotland international, he has improved hugely over the past few weeks and is deserving of his place in the net.
CB: Flanagan CB: Ozturk CB: Willis
If Parkinson is to continue with three centre-backs, and he will, then he hasn’t got too many options with Laurens De Bock returning to Leeds United.
We’d be surprised if Tom Flanagan isn’t restored to the starting line up after a poor performance from Joel Lynch at Highbury, and we’d expect he’ll move to the right-side of the three, with Alim Ozturk central and Willis on the left.
As much as it’s criticised, the back three is here to stay and Parky seems to love the idea of it, so we expect it to stay for this afternoon’s game.
RM: O’Nien CM: Dobson CM: Power LM: Hume
Dylan McGeouch is still out injured, and there are no signs of Ethan Robson returning to Wearside as yet so we’ll likely see his favoured midfield pairing of George Dobson and Max Power, unless Parkinson opts to bring back Grant Leadbitter.
In the wing-back positions, Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume pick themselves. In particular Hume has been excellent over the past month and has developed into our biggest attacking threat since the omission of Aiden McGeady.
O’Nien missed a sitter at Fleetwood and many people feel he could do with a rest, but the alternative is Conor McLaughlin, who doesn’t seem to fit into Parkinson’s plan.
RAM: Watmore LAM: Maguire
In the supporting roles behind Charlie Wyke is where Sunderland seem to have the most options, with Lynden Gooch, Duncan Watmore and Chris Maguire all available to start.
Gooch has been right back on form since returning to the squad, but three games in six days may be asking a little too much of the American, so we expect Watmore to return to the side.
As for Maguire, he can’t really be dropped after scoring two in the last two games.
ST: Charlie Wyke
Is there still a hole in Parkinson’s backside? If the answer is yes, then Wyke will start up front.
With Will Grigg not seeing a minute of football over the festive period and linked to a loan move to Blackpool, it’s fair to say his time on Wearside may be limited, whereas Marc McNulty doesn’t typically fit the Parkinson model.
Wyke still seems incapable of being the goal-scorer we so desperately need, but there’s no doubt we look more dangerous with Wyke as the focal point of our attack.