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

Who do you reckon will make Phil Parkinson’s starting eleven when Sunderland take on Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium?

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

GK: Burge

Despite conceding five goals in the past two games, Burge hasn’t been at fault and will keep his place in goal this afternoon. The ex-Coventry stopper has certainly had more to do in the past week than he has all season, and will be hoping for a quieter game today.

CB: Willis CB: Wright CB: Flanagan RWB: O’Nien LWB: Hume

With Sunderland starting to struggle at the back, I’m backing Phil Parkinson to play his first choice back five.

Injuries and suspensions have prevented him from selecting a consistent defence for the past few games, and despite coping well initially performances have started to suffer at the back.

Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan are pretty certain to start, along with Denver Hume whose form hasn’t dropped off and Luke O’Nien who returns from suspension.

The main area of contention will be the inclusion of Jordan Willis, who has a long-term injury that Phil Parkinson said needs to be managed, but with Sunderland’s defence in need of a clean sheet I think he will be risked today.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

DM: Leadbitter CM: Gooch CM: Scowen

Phil Parkinson switched things up last week, with George Dobson’s inclusion signifying a switch to a two man midfield.

However, I predict Grant Leadbitter to come back into the side after a seven-day break, and I think just as Dobson is more suited to a two-man midfield the club captain is at his best in a midfield trio.

Either side of him, Luke O’Nien’s return should allow Lynden Gooch to play in midfield, and Josh Scowen is a likely partner for him and is another player who will benefit from a return to 5-3-2.

ST: Wyke ST: Maguire

Up front, Charlie Wyke continued his goal scoring form in midweek despite the disappointing team performance and his place in the side is probably the most secure out of all of his teammates.

Alongside him, Chris Maguire is in desperate need of some good performances if he is to keep Aidan O’Brien out of the side. I do think Maguire will play this afternoon, but if O’Brien can make an impact off the bench, then last season’s player of the season will likely find himself out of the side.

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

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