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

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Is this the Sunderland team that will take on Harrogate Town today at the Stadium of Light?

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

GK: Lee Burge

With Remi Matthews and Anthony Patterson both getting a run-out in last weekend’s win against Carlisle, it is likely that Sunderland’s probable first choice goalkeeper will return between the posts for the final pre-season game of the summer.

Matthews was brought in to challenge Burge for the number one shirt, but with a mistake leading to the Cumbrians’ goal last weekend it is the former Coventry stopper who is in possession of the gloves as we enter Sunderland’s third season in League One.


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

Much like in goal, I expect that Phil Parkinson will look to choose as close to his first choice eleven as is possible. Bailey Wright and Jordan Willis are undoubtably Sunderland’s starting centre backs, in both a back four and back three, and with Tom Flanagan presumably unavailable after pulling out of the Northern Ireland squad for personal reasons, Brandon Taylor will be looking to put his hat in the ring to play a large role in Sunderland’s squad this season.

The inclusion of Taylor in what is otherwise a full strength Sunderland side shows exactly why former trialist Xhemajli is still being considered as a possible addition to Phil Parkinson's squad; especially since he would provide a left-footed option which Sunderland currently lack in defence.

With Sunderland's only other options at wing back being a number of square pegs in round holes, Luke O'Nien and Denver Hume will almost certainly start the opening league game, and are likely to start here as a result.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

CM: Scowen CM: Power

Josh Scowen has arguably been Sunderland's stand out player in the two pre-season games, and he had put himself ahead of George Dobson in the pecking order with a good performance in the first hour against Carlisle backing up his goal against Gateshead.

The natural partner for Scowen is Max Power, who has been Phil Parkinson's choice as captain when Grant Leadbitter is not on the pitch. Although Power's place in the team is relatively solid, Scowen's emergence and the return of Leadbitter mean Sunderland have more options in midfield than last year, and the former Wigan midfielder will be keen to put in a good performance to solidify his place.


AM: Gooch AM: Maguire

Whilst Elliot Embleton and Jack Diamond will be looking to give Phil Parkinson options in the two attacking midfield roles, Sunderland's strongest two players in this area remain Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire.

In my opinion it is no coincidence that Sunderland's attacking play improved drastically against Carlisle following Maguire's introduction and if Sunderland are to test out their strongest side this weekend, Maguire and Gooch must both start.

Sunderland v Carlisle United - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

ST: Aiden O’Brien

Phil Parkinson has so far rotated his strikers in the last two games by giving both Grigg and Wyke one start each with Aiden O'Brien being played as one of the attacking midfielders being the lone striker.

However, the former Millwall forward looked rather sluggish when playing out wide against Carlisle, and with reports from Millwall fans hinting that his best position is as a central striker Parkinson may want to see if O'Brien can provide the solution to Sunderland's striker problems.