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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Carlisle at the SOL this afternoon?

Is this the Sunderland team that will take on Carlisle United today at the Stadium of Light? It’s a big opportunity for the likes of Arby Xhemajli and Will Grigg, both of whom are hoping to prove themselves - but for very different reasons.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

GK: Remi Matthews

He wasn’t able to compete on Saturday due to a delay in COVID test results but Matthews is expected to be available today to play in his first game as a Sunderland player.

The former Bolton man was first choice for Parky in the Championship at Bolton and, with that in mind, you have to expect that he hasn’t come here just to play second fiddle.

The Cumbrians should provide us with a sterner test than Gateshead were able to, so there should be plenty of opportunities for the 26-year old to show us all just why he should be Sunderland’s number one going into the coming season.

CB: Willis CB: Feeney CB: Xhemajli RWB: O’Nien LWB: Hume

I expect that the back three which finished the game on Saturday will be the one that starts it, with Parkinson looking to provide his players with equal minutes on the pitch in order to test their fitness.

For ‘Arby’ Xhemajli, this is a big opportunity to prove to the Sunderland gaffer why we should go ahead and sign him on a permanent basis. He was impressive in his cameo at the weekend, hitting the post at one end of the pitch whilst defending resolutely at the other, and today he’ll be looking to give us more of the same.

With a lack of options hampering our ability to rotate at full back, we can expect to see Denver Hume and Luke O’Nien from the start of this one.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Morgan Feeney Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

CM: Scowen CM: Power

George Dobson and Grant Leadbitter started at Gateshead and were wholly unimpressive, so today provides Josh Scowen and Max Power with a great chance to stake their claim for a start when the season starts in a few weeks’ time.

Scowen scored a great goal at the International Stadium and, to borrow an old cliché, he should be like a new signing when you consider how little he played last season. Max Power is Sunderland’s de facto captain and first choice when fit, but still has to prove his worth and show Phil Parkinson what he’s capable of.

AM: O’Brien AM: Diamond

Sunderland are still lacking another decent attacking midfield option, so whilst Aiden O’Brien may be keen to play games up top I suspect he and Jack Diamond will start today in place of Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch, who were preferred on Saturday.

Jack Diamond picked up an assist at Gateshead and continues to impress, so another good outing today will further strengthen his credentials in the eyes of the Sunderland supporters and his manager, who is likely to be still on the fence regarding whether or not he needs to keep him, or spend another season out on loan.

Gateshead v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

ST: Will Grigg

Grigg scored on Saturday and looks much fitter and sharper than he has since he came to the club - is this a sign that he’s working hard and wants a future with Sunderland?

He’s likely to lead the line and will be hoping to get himself on the score-sheet again. These might only be friendlies but putting the chances away will surely give him renewed confidence, something which could prove to be vitally important when the season begins.

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