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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will start this afternoon v Bristol Rovers?

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Is this the Sunderland team that will take on Bristol Rovers at the Stadium of Light this afternoon?

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy

GK: Lee Burge

Despite losing last season's first choice goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, there is no debate over who will replace him as Parkinson's number one. Lee Burge performed well when called upon last season and kept a clean sheet last Saturday in the cup against Hull.

As things stand, the gloves are his to lose.

Sheffield United v Sunderland AFC - Carabao Cup Third Round Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

CB: Willis CB: Wright CB: Xhemajli RWB: O'Nien LWB: Hume

Four of the five places in the defence are certainties; Jordan Willis and Bailey Wright would get into most - if not all - League One defences, whilst a lack of depth means Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume are Sunderland’s only natural options at wing back.

If Phil Parkinson is to make a change to his defence, it will be the introduction of Arbenit Xhemajli at the expense of Tom Flanagan; although Flanagan has performed well on the left of the back three - especially when you consider that his former defensive partner Jack Baldwin will line up for the opposition following a season playing as a midfielder in League Two.

Xhemajli has clearly been brought in to play, and he showed on Tuesday that his left-footed nature allows him to get forward in a similar manner to Jordan Willis on the opposite flank. Arby was put into the side as soon as he was eligible to play, and with 90 minutes under his belt he could be ready to start tomorrow.


CM: Scowen CM: Power

Max Power is probably the first name on the team sheet after he was named team captain this week. However, one of the places in Sunderland’s starting eleven most up for debate is who should partner him in the middle of the park.

As our recent article where different writers gave their preferred team shows, Dobson or Scowen could partner the captain in midfield, and another option would be for both to partner Power - who played in a more advanced position on Tuesday night - in the engine room.

Personally, I think Josh Scowen has quite literally forced his way into the team after being unlucky to miss out last weekend on the back of some strong preseason form. His goal on Tuesday night in a deeper position showed he can offer something extra when compared with Power and Dobson, and with just one attacking midfielder likely to be selected, it is important that one of Sunderland’s midfielder can offer an attacking threat.

Sunderland v Hull City - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

AM: Chris Maguire

One benefit of Phil Parkinson’s switch in formation from a 3-4-2-1 to a 3-4-1-2 is that Sunderland’s talisman Chris Maguire is situated at the heart of the team, something which means he can influence the play more often and act as the focal point of the side’s attacking play.

Chris Maguire has been Sunderland’s most consistent attacking and creative player over the last 12 months, and his move to a more central position should be good news for the strikers ahead of him.

Sunderland v Hull City - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

ST: Grigg ST: O’Brien

I have to say I was slightly surprised to see Aiden O'Brien start alongside Will Grigg up front last Saturday. However, with the number of chances Sunderland created I think it is unlikely that Phil Parkinson will abandon their partnership after just one game.

On top of O'Brien's positive start last weekend, Danny Graham - who seems to be the most likely man to replace the former Millwall striker - only appeared off the bench in midweek. Something which suggests he is not yet ready to play from the start. I expect to see him take Wyke's place on the bench.