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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland team that will take on Swindon this afternoon?

Is this the Sunderland side that will face Swindon at The County Ground this afternoon? Martin Wanless predicts the team he thinks Parky will pick.

Sunderland v Carlisle United: EFL Trophy Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

GK: Burge

After a shaky start to the season, Lee Burge has grown in confidence and will rightly come back into the side after Remi Matthews was given an outing in the EFL Trophy.

Burge didn’t have a great deal to do at The Valley last time out, and he’ll be hoping for a similar afternoon today – however with the forced changes in front of him that might be a touch optimistic...

Sunderland Training Session
Burge is growing in confidence
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

CB: Willis CB: Wright CB: McLaughlin

This is where things start to get interesting. With Flanagan suspended after he took one for the team at Charlton, Xhemajli sadly ruled out for the season after suffering an injury on international duty and Feeney similarly sidelined, we’re down to the bare bones defensively.

Brandon Taylor is the only other available centre half – new loan signing Dion Sanderson is ineligible for today’s game – but Taylor’s not looked up to scratch in his EFL Trophy appearances so far this season and is unlikely to be risked.

Changing formation is an option, of course, but I think that’d be a foolish move given the work that’s gone into playing this system, and how effective it’s looked, so I expect Parkinson to stick with a back three.

Luke O’Nien played on the left of the three against Carlisle and impressed after a nervy opening period, with Parkinson vocal in his praise. However, part of that praise was due to his link up play with Hume, who is doubtful for this game.

Conor McLaughlin impressed at international level in midweek, so I expect him to come into the back three in place of Flanagan. Potentially he’ll play on the right side with Willis moving across to the left to give additional cover to the left wing back who fills in for Hume, or Parkinson may prefer to keep Willis on the right to avoid any unnecessary disruption.

Sunderland v Carlisle United: EFL Trophy
O’Nien played well in defence against Carlisle, and could keep his place there
Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RWB: O’Nien CM: Leadbitter CM: Power LWB: Gooch

Grant Leadbitter’s one of the first names on the teamsheet these days, and his defensive know how and leadership will be vital today. Captain Max Power was only on the bench at Charlton after overcoming injury, and I expect Parkinson will bring him back into the starting XI with Gooch, who started in centre midfield at The Valley, moving to left wing back to replace Denver Hume.

Hume’s been one of our standout players this season but he’s rated as doubtful for today after picking up a knee injury in training. Given our lack of depth at left wing back, he’s unlikely to be risked if there’s any chance of making his injury worse.

There is the option of U-23 captain Cieran Dunne, who’s been starring at left wing back in a team finally winning some games, however with Parky’s reluctance to play the youngsters, combined with the fact Dunne hasn’t even played in the EFL Trophy this season, that seems unlikely. He could be a surprise inclusion on the bench, though.

Luke O’Nien should take up his usual right wing back spot.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Will Gooch line up as left wing back?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

AM: Scowen AM: Maguire

The configuration of the attacking trio has been something Parkinson’s played about with more than anything else this season, and he still hasn’t quite found anything that clicks.

He’s tried two up front with one centrally behind, and one up front with two playing behind in slightly wider positions – and various personnel combinations within that – however we’ve not yet hit our straps in an attacking sense.

I think today’s attacking line up will be influenced by the need to support Gooch defensively – if he does play wing back we’ll be vulnerable there, so I expect Parkinson to play with two in those deeper roles who can more easily offer wide defensive support.

I expect Maguire to return to the team after injury – during his goalscoring return against Carlisle he showed no ill effects – and he’ll be critical this afternoon with his ability to carry the ball forward and create opportunities, in addition to the goal threat he presents.

Josh Scowen has been slowly impressing in his recent appearances, and was a standout at Charlton. Given the need for some of that dirty work I expect him to retain his place in that advanced position to the right of the midfield.

The work rate of Maguire and, in particular, Scowen, will also be beneficial pressing in more advanced positions, too.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Scowen’s quietly impressing
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

CF: Wyke

Swindon are a team that play out from the back – over play sometimes – and Parkinson rates Wyke’s pressing game highly. So, I expect Wyke to get the nod today, especially given none of the strikers having yet made a particularly strong case for a regular starting spot.

We saw last season, especially in the home game against Lincoln, just how effective Wyke, Maguire and – in that instance – Gooch could be playing against a team who likes to play out, so hopefully we’ll see the same today, with a similar outcome.

Graham, O’Brien and Grigg are obviously all in contention to one degree or another, and personally, I’d prefer Grigg to be given an extended run in the team (that’s a whole other debate), but I just don’t see that happening.

Sunderland v Carlisle United: EFL Trophy
This afternoon’s game could suit Wyke
Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Subs: Matthews, Graham, Grigg, O’Brien, Taylor, Dobson, Diamond

Defensively I’d expect Taylor to provide emergency back up from the bench, while Dobson can play there too. Grigg’s fit again after missing out against Carlisle through injury, and with him, Graham, O’Brien and Diamond on the bench there’s potentially a number of attacking options should we need to switch things around.

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