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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Portsmouth this afternoon?

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Who do you reckon will make Phil Parkinson’s starting eleven today when Sunderland take on Pompey?

Swindon Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

GK: Burge

I say this every week but it's worked a charm so far. Lee Burge is still yet to concede from open play this season and Phil Parkinson's response to losing his first choice goalkeeper by not letting the opposition have any shots seems to be working so far. Long may it continue.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

CB: Flanagan CB: Wright CB: O'Nien RWB: Gooch LWB: Hume

With Sunderland's slightly makeshift defence performing so well in the last couple of games, I wouldn't be surprised to start this afternoon with the same back five that kept a clean sheet on Tuesday night against Crewe - and Mikael Mandron who scored a brace just before lockdown.

However, Tom Flanagan came off the bench in that game, and I suspect he will get the nod ahead of Conor McLaughlin for one of the wide roles in Sunderland's back three. Whilst injury has removed competition from Xhemajli for Flanagan's position in the team, Luke O'Nien's emergence in that role means this game is likely to be a shoot-out to decide which player makes way for Jordan Willis to return in subsequent matches.


DM: Leadbitter CM: Power CM: Scowen

Sunderland's midfield is probably the most improved area of the team this season, and what a difference that has made to performances.

As the defence continued its good form from last season and the strikers continued to struggle, the introduction of Leadbitter and Scowen alongside the switch to a midfield have drastically improved Sunderland's chance creation when compared with last season.

Max Power's place in the team looked under threat a fortnight ago, but Gooch's move to wing back and Maguire's move up front has given the captain his starting spot back just before Elliot Embleton's return to contention and Dan Neil's full emergence.

Power and Scowen's legs have also made Grant Leadbitter look a few years younger and his ball retention has helped Sunderland to control games more than was the case last season.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

ST: Wyke ST: Maguire

Unlike the other components of the sides, one part of Sunderland game that is yet to step up a level this season is chance conversion.

That being said, Parkinson has stumbled upon a combination that seems to be working at the moment, with both Maguire and Wyke scoring last Saturday and then Wyke putting pressure on for the only (own) goal of the game on Tuesday night.

One way for this side to drastically improve would be to get a genuine finisher, without that it a case of picking the players who work well together and Chris Maguire certainly appreciated playing just behind Charlie Wyke at the end of last season.