GK: Jon McLaughlin
The Scottish goalkeeper’s impressive run of clean sheets came to an abrupt end on Tuesday night when fellow Scot Barrie McKay slammed home his first goal for Fleetwood Town after only four minutes. His distribution was particularly good in the midweek draw, often allowing Sunderland to quickly get at Joey Barton’s side in waves.
He’s the number one and starts today’s crucial six-pointer.
CB: Willis CB: Ozturk CB: Flanagan
With Bailey Wright ruled out for the foreseeable future, Alim Ozturk was given the nod over Joel Lynch on Tuesday and did a solid enough job, so will likely continue in the middle of the back three.
Jordan Willis wasn’t at his best on Tuesday, but still continued to support Luke O’Nien superbly going forward before going off in the dying minutes of the 1-1 draw.
Tom Flanagan seems to have cemented his place on the left-hand side of the back three and will hope to continue his rapid rise in popularity amongst the fan-base by helping Phil Parkinson’s side to a massive three points in the promotion race.
RM: O’Nien CM: Dobson CM: Power LM: Hume
Since being installed as captain, Max Power has gone from strength to strength and is finally showing the quality we all knew he had - long may it continue.
His last gasp goal that salvaged a point in midweek was testament to the never-say-die attitude he has brought to the captaincy, and he deserves heaps of praise for coming through a difficult period earlier in the season.
George Dobson was sacrificed for Kyle Lafferty during the week as Parkinson opted to go long in the dying throes of the game, but will likely his place in the midfield at St. Andrews this afternoon. If Luke O’Nien is fit, he plays, and Denver Hume, despite a patchy run of form, is seemingly Parkinson’s number one choice on the left-hand side.
RAM: Gooch LAM: Maguire
There’s every chance that Lynden Gooch could be out of this weekend’s game, with Parky admitting he’s one of two injury worries for the trip to St. Andrews, but we’re expecting him to shake it off in time to make the mammoth clash.
If Gooch isn’t able to make the trip to the Midlands, however, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod out of Antoine Semenyo and Duncan Watmore.
On the left will be Chris Maguire, with the Glaswegian absolutely on fire at the moment. If he performs like he has done recently, we could very well be bringing back all three points to Wearside - he really is that important.
CF: Kyle Lafferty
Alongside Gooch, the other injury concern is that of Charlie Wyke.
The five-goal striker has struggled with injury this week and many Sunderland fans feel it’s a perfect time to bring in January signing Lafferty anyway, so we could see the Northern Irishman start for the first time in the Midlands.
Lafferty will be desperate to show why he should be the main man in Sunderland’s promotion run-in, with a run of match-winning performances likely to see him earn a new contract come season’s end.