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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Carlisle tonight?

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Is this the Sunderland team that will take on Carlisle tonight at the Stadium of Light? Phil Butler has a go at guessing what side Parky will pick...

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

GK: Matthews

With Saturday's goalless draw meaning Sunderland have still only conceded one goal in the league all season, Remi Matthews is likely to find his only game time in this competition.

Matthews made an error leading up to a goal in pre season – ironically against tonight’s opponents – and he will be looking to get a clean sheet tonight to out some pressure on Lee Burge's status should the former Coventry stopper suffer a dip in his performance levels.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Remi Matthews Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

CB: Willis CB: Wright CB: Taylor RWB: O'Nien LWB: Diamond

My prediction that three first-teamers – Luke O'Nien, Bailey Wright and Jordan Willis – will start in the Sunderland back five tonight highlights just how short we are in defence beyond the starting eleven.

McLaughlin, Flanagan and Xhemajli are all unavailable and Morgan Feeney is out for four months, meaning options are seriously lacking.

Brandon Taylor will start at centre back, and as Jack Diamond seems to be our only back up to Denver Hume, he’ll likely get a start. His natural instincts as a winger will be on show more than any possible defensive deficiencies in his game.


CM: Power CM: Dobson CM: Maguire

With three midfielders returning from injury and suspension for tonight's game, it is likely we will see a complete change from the midfield trio that worked so well in the first half at Charlton on Saturday.

Grant Leadbitter has taken his chance during George Dobson's suspension to cement his place as the first choice at the base of Sunderland's midfield, but the former Walsall captain is almost certain to return to the side tonight as the experienced midfielder is rested.

Max Power and Chris Maguire both missed Saturday's draw due to injury but Phil Parkinson has confirmed both are fit to return this evening. Lynden Gooch and Josh Scowen have both shown to be able deputies without really nailing down their place in the side ahead of the two returning absentees, and Power especially will be keep to regain his starting spot after Scowen impressed at The Valley.

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

ST: Grigg ST: Wyke

Up front, O'Brien and Graham were replaced by Grigg and Wyke midway through the second half at the weekend, and it's likely that Sunderland's two longest-serving strikers will come in from the start this evening.

We've seen on plenty of occasions that Grigg and Wyke don't make a particularly effective partnership, but with Parkinson keen to rotate his squad in this competition the pair should get the nod.

Sunderland's strikers are all yet to score in the league this season, so Will Grigg especially will be looking to take advantage of lower league opposition and force his way back into Phil Parkinson's plans for the rest of the season.