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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Villa U21s in the EFL Trophy tonight?

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Is this the Sunderland team that will take on Aston Villa u21s tonight at the Stadium of Light? Phil Butler has a go at guessing what side Parky will pick in the competition's opener!

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

GK: Matthews

With Phil Parkinson picking something close to his first choice eleven for the weekend's game against Hull City, it is likely that there will be plenty of changes going into the second game of the season.

The first of these changes is likely to be in goal, with Remi Matthew's place in the squad as the second choice 'keeper meaning his best chance of game time will be in the EFL Trophy.


CB: Taylor CB: Feeney CB: Xhemajli RWB: McLaughlin LWB: Diamond

Since the new league season is only a matter of days away, it's entirely possible that Phil Parkinson plays two different starting elevens to face Villa and Bristol Rovers.

Youngsters Brandon Taylor and Morgan Feeney have been involved throughout preseason and, like Remi Matthews in goal, should see plenty of action in this competition despite being very much back-up options to Willis and Wright.

Of greater interest will be Arbenit Xhemajli. The Kosovan defender was signed after the deadline to play against Hull City, but has already turned out in red and white during Sunderland's first game of preseason at Gateshead.

He will be looking to dislodge Tom Flanagan from his position on the left of Sunderland's back three, and with Parkinson showing last season how loyal he can be to his starting players, a strong display from Arby will be important to show Sunderland's depth in that position.

In the wingback positions I expect to see Conor McLaughlin and Jack Diamond, which underlines the lack of depth we have in those positions. McLaughlin failed to impress last season, and it would be nice to see an assured display from him tonight. While Diamond is a winger by trade, wingback is his best chance of getting into Parkinson’s formation – given we have no cover for Hume at present, it’s worth giving him some experience there.

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

CM: Scowen CM: Leadbitter

A slight surprise in Parkinson's team selection for the weekend's game was the omission of Josh Scowen, who appeared to be part of the Sunderland manager’s first-choice midfield alongside Max Power.

For that reason, it is almost guaranteed that he will start tonight, with his partner most likely to club captain Grant Leadbitter, who will be looking to guide what will be a young side through the game to achieve a positive result.


AM: Gooch AM: Neil

Like Josh Scowen, Lynden Gooch appeared to be in Phil Parkinson's first-choice team throughout preseason, but found himself on the bench for the season's opener against Hull.

Gooch was one of the key players last season, although he also responded well after being dropped. Gooch, Maguire and O'Brien will be competing for two places behind the lone striker, and after O'Brien looked promising on debut Gooch needs to force himself back into the side for Saturday's game against Bristol Rovers with a good performance this evening.

Alongside him, Dan Neil has been the breakthrough player in preseason and beat Jack Diamond to a place on the bench against Hull City. He is highly rated by the club and playing against fellow youth players will provide the opportunity for him to impress.

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

ST: Wyke

After Will Grigg started on Saturday and with Danny Graham returning to the club yesterday Charlie Wyke could be viewed as Sunderland's third choice striker after ending last season as first choice.

Graham's profile is similar to Wyke's in that they are both target men who will be judged on their link up play more than their goals, but with Wyke out of the side at the moment the only way to regain his starting place will be to get himself on the scoresheet when the opportunity provides itself.