GK: Jon McLaughlin
While he had a poor start to the campaign, Jon McLaughlin’s return to form has been timely, and he looks more assured than ever with a resolute back three in front of him.
You have to feel a little for Lee Burge, because he really did nothing wrong to be dropped at the time, but since McLaughlin’s reintroduction to the starting eleven he’s gone from strength to strength. He was excellent at Oxford last week.
CB: Willis CB: Ozturk CB: Flanagan
The injury to Bailey Wright was a huge blow, especially after his commanding performances at the heart of defence, but we have to plough on without him. Alim Ozturk is a very able deputy, however, and should slot straight back into the team.
On the right-hand side of the three will be Jordan Willis. The former Coventry captain is quite simple irreplaceable at present and was far and wide the best player on the park in last week’s all important 1-0 victory at the Kassam Stadium. We’re very lucky to have him.
Tom Flanagan has been equally impressive on the left and deserves a mountain of praise after his turnaround in form. We’ll be expecting some more Cruyff turns this weekend!
RM: O’Nien CM: Dobson CM: Power LM: Hume
Luke O’Nien was outstanding in last week’s victory as he showed, once again, just how important his role and presence in the side is.
Denver Hume should line up on the opposite flank, with January signing Declan John nowhere to be seen. Hume has had a quiet few weeks after bursting into form between Christmas and New Year, but is a key-player in Phil Parkinson’s side.
In the middle, Josh Scowen will be pushing for a start after impressing last weekend.
He looked tidy and industrious and will be frustrated at his lack of game time since his arrival, but he may have to be even more patient this weekend as we expect Parky to go with his favoured midfield pairing of George Dobson and Max Power.
It’s a tough one for Scowen, because he obviously has talent, but Dobson and Power are simply undroppable on current form.
RAM: Gooch LAM: Maguire
Chris Maguire is Sunderland’s most important player. When the Scottish attacker plays well, so does the team - and he’s been bang in form for a few months now. The same label could also easily be given to Lynden Gooch, whose return to the side has coincided with a remarkable run of form that sees us just three points from the top of the league.
Antoine Semenyo and Duncan Watmore aren’t bad options to have on the bench, but if Gooch and Maguire are fit, they’ll surely start.
CF: Charlie Wyke
There have been calls for Parky to drop Charlie Wyke for a few weeks now and, based on the form of Sunderland’s number nine, it’s a fair point. Many feel Northern Irishman Kyle Lafferty has shown far more in his cameos than the former Bradford man has done in 90 minutes.
Parkinson singled Wyke out for praise following last week’s victory and he appears to see the striker as a key cog in his Sunderland side, whilst he referred to Lafferty as “a good option from the bench”. Many supporters may disagree with it, but Wyke is first choice.