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What would be your starting XI to face Bristol Rovers in our League One opener?!

Sunderland’s team is starting to take shape - who would you start against Bristol Rovers on Saturday?

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What would be your starting XI to face Bristol Rovers in our League One opener?!

James Nickels says...

It’s certainly nice to have a selection headache before the season he even began, with fringe players, young lads and those battling for selection all impressing.

After Tuesday night’s performance, Josh Scowen has just edged himself ahead of George Dobson in my team, but I doubt Parkinson will do the same - unless his set pieces alone has made him integral.

Aside from that, there are only two selection dilemmas: who partners Grigg and whether or not Arby has enough minutes under his belt to start.

I think Parky needs to make a statement early on, and that is by selecting Arby. He’s seemingly a steal for a club at this level with interest in his signature also from Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

With that in mind, my team would be (3-4-1-2):

The only other big decision aside from those mentioned is who partners Will Grigg, as it seeks pretty self-evident and clear from the club’s marketing so far that he’s gonna be first choice.

Graham offers a real brutish presence, with his abilities as a target man already evident. But I think his first choice attacking trio were what he started the Hull game with. Especially since Graham only signed a few days ago.

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy
Josh Scowen
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

When playing a back three, Flanagan normally appears to be Sunderland’s weak-link. So, it stands to reason that the exciting acquisition of Xhemajli is to bed in alongside Willis and Wright. For any successful promotion push relies upon a solid defence and the sooner that can be formed the better our chances.

After some early rave reviews Scowen seems to add a different outlet we’ve missed. Not only his set-pieces but a tidy midfielder eager for the ball. When the chips are down that could prove invaluable to us. As for team Captain Max Power, someone seems to have supercharged him recently. At his best he is certainly one of the best midfielders and seems in the mood to prove that!

Our Starting XI on Saturday (3-5-2):

If nothing else, fitness prevailing our midweek MotM, Josh Scowen, should get a place in the starting XI.

In my opinion, Power is still our best chance of seeing any end product from Grigg long-term, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Parkinson chooses to unleash Grigg sparingly at first this season and looks at the in-form Wyke and O’Brien to start on Saturday. It could well be a slow burner of a game but if the fans can see progress from last season we’ll all be happy.

While few League One sides could boast the likes of Grigg and Graham on their bench, who knows, a new G-Force perhaps?

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

For Phil Parkinson, it’s a nice position to be in. On Tuesday night, at least seven or eight players made a reasonable claim for a starting place – added to the eleven who’d performed well on Saturday against Hull, and it gives us a strong, competitive group of 18 or 19 players who could justifiably be starters.

When that’s all said and done, however, we need to be realistic about the standard of opposition we faced on Tuesday night, and I think we saw what Parkinson believes is his first choice XI versus Hull, albeit that was before the signings of Xhemajli and Graham.

One of the most impressive performances on Tuesday came from Scowen. I think he’s been criminally underused so far, and should be a first team regular based on his experience and track record. His set piece delivery on Tuesday was impressive, and for that reason alone I’d include him in my starting line up.

Sunderland v Harrogate Town - Pre-Season Friendly
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In defence, Feeney and Xhemajli both showed we’ve got good strength in depth and while I believe Xhemajli will eventually take the left sided spot in defence Parkinson will likely stick with Flanagan this time out.

Grigg can count himself unfortunate not to have faced Villa’s babies. A couple of goals would have been the perfect fillip for him after his impressive performance against Hull was ended by that penalty miss, and I expect him to be given the chance – another chance – to prove he is capable of scoring the goals to get us up.

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