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Match Preview: Sunderland v Villa U21s - An opportunity for squad players to stake their claim

With the League One campaign only days away we look forward to another opportunity for players to impress. Who will grasp the opportunity tonight?

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Checkatrade Trophy Final Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21s - EFL Trophy, Group Stage

Stadium of Light

Kick-Off: 7pm - Tuesday 8th September, 2020

Match Coverage

TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via

Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Newcastle (not online)

Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the game at!

After so long without Sunderland being involved in competitive football, I’ll take anything right now and that includes the EFL Trophy. At the very bottom of the pile when it comes to priorities this season but another useful game for Phil Parkinson to assess his squad ahead of the League One opener against Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

Of course in the EFL Trophy all Academy sides must play their games away from home, so we again have an empty Stadium of Light hosting our group opener against Aston Villa U21s, before we face Carlisle United and Fleetwood Town to complete the group stage over the next couple of months.

Usual League competition rules apply to the group stage in terms of 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw, however in the event of a draw an extra point will be offer to the winners of a penalty shoot-out. The top two sides in the group will progress to the knock-out stages.

In normal circumstances this would be seen as a nothing game, and it some ways it is now, although with some of the younger players not getting a run out on Saturday, it has added an element of intrigue whether they get 90 minutes and an opportunity to impress against a Premier League Academy side.

To try and hazard a guess at a Sunderland XI, we need to remind ourselves of the competition rules around team selection...

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

EFL Trophy Rules

  • Any eligible goalkeeper from the club can play in the competition.
  • A club must play four qualifying players from the 10.
  • A qualifying player must meet one of the following criteria:

- A player who started the previous of following first team fixture.

- Any player who is in the top ten players at the club who have made the most starting appearances in the League and domestic cup competitions that season.

- Any player with 40 of more first team appearances in their career.

- Any player currently on loan from a Premier League of Category One Academy Club.

  • Only two players over the age of 21 who have made 40 or more senior appearances can be selected to play for Academy sides.

Sunderland Team News

A lot will be known about Phil Parkinson’s strategy towards not only the EFL Trophy, but his build-up to the start of the League One season on Saturday.

Will he look to give as many of the players who started against Hull City another 90 minutes under their belts, or will he try and get more game time throughout the players who did not appear?

I’m sure some of those who started the Carabao Cup opener will already have one eye on the Bristol Rovers game and those who didn’t will be desperate for an opportunity to show what they can do.

Possible XI: Remi Matthews, Brandon Taylor, Morgan Feeney, Arbenit Xhemajli, Jack Diamond, Josh Scowen, Grant Leadbitter, Denver Hume, Dan Neil, Lynden Gooch, Charlie Wyke

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

Aston Villa U21s Team News

Aston Villa fans will have to wait longer than most other clubs to get their Premier League campaign underway due to Manchester City’s involvement in the Champions League at the end of last season. This has resulted in Villa having to wait an extra eight days before they take on Sheffield United at Villa Park on the 20th September, so anticipation may be high even if it is only the U21s in action.

Coached by Mark Delaney, who in his playing days was a full-back that made over 150 appearances for Aston Villa between 1999-2007, and also was a Welsh international making 36 appearances for his country, the U21s selected will all be looking to emulate the likes of Jack Grealish and Andre Green who have worked through the ranks and forced their way into the first team squad.

One to watch (if selected): Louie Barry

After ten years in the Academy at West Bromwich Albion the Sutton Coldfield born striker was courted by Paris Saint-Germain but instead opted for Barcelona in July 2019. He would only spend six months with the Catalan giants before Aston Villa brought him in January 2020 for just short of £1 million.

Last Time We Met

Tuesday 6th March 2018: Sky Bet Championship

Sunderland 0 - 3 Aston Villa (Lewis Grabban, James Chester, Bryan Oviedo [OG])

Sunderland: Steele, Love, Oviedo, Kone, O’Shea (Asoro), Browning (Jones), McManaman, Cattermole, Ejaria, McGeady, Fletcher (Maja). Substitutes not used: Camp, Honeyman, Williams, Lua Lua.

Aston Villa: Johnstone, Elmohamady, Taylor, Hourihane, Chester, Terry, Snodgrass, Whelan (Jedinak), Grabban (Bjarnason), Hogan (Grealish), Adomah. Substitutes not used: Bunn, Onomah, Lansbury, Davis.

Sunderland v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
Lewis Grabban
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Match Betting

Sunderland are firm favourites before the teams are confirmed at 4/5 to win the game in 90 minutes, this however could change dramatically if Parkinson goes with a younger side. Aston Villa are 3/1 to cause an upset at the Stadium of Light which again may change depending on the Sunderland XI.

If you’re thinking correct score, the bookies have it down as a 1-1 draw as favourite scoreline, with Sunderland to win 1-0 or 2-1 closely behind at 7/1.

A quick look at the outright odds to win the trophy, Sunderland are joint second favourite with Ipswich Town at 12/1 behind early favourites Portsmouth who are currently 8/1.

Aston Villa U21s are currently have an outside chance of going all the way in the competition according the bookmakers who are offering 66/1, where they most fancied Academy side are unsurprisingly Manchester City who are 16/1.


I think Phil Parkinson will be looking for momentum and a feel good factor going into the Bristol Rovers game and I see a comfortable win for the lads.

Sunderland 2 - 0 Aston Villa U21s

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

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