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Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Crewe Alexandra tonight?

Sunderland are looking to keep their momentum going despite a few key players being unavailable for tonight’s game at Crewe. We have a go at guessing the starting XI – what do you reckon?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After a humbling defeat at Portsmouth in our last league game, it was important to get back to winning ways by hook or by crook and that’s exactly what we did at the weekend with Tom Flanagan’s towering header at the back post enough to get the better of Steve Evans’ side.

Sunderland weren’t great at the weekend, although in fairness we were beginning to have a good spell of the game just as Elliot Embleton received his marching orders, but a win is a win and with several injuries in attacking areas we’re at a stage in the season where we just need to grind some results out until our more senior players regain their match fitness.

Elliot Embleton will be missing for tonight’s game due to his aforementioned sending off, and he will join Aiden McGeady, Lynden Gooch and Leon Dajaku on the sidelines as Lee Johnson mentioned that he doesn’t expect anyone who was injured at the weekend to return in time for tonight. Arbenit Xhemajli is nearing a first team return, but he played for the under 23s last night so will need to wait a little while longer before making his first league appearance for Sunderland.

Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.

GK: Hoffmann

Once again Sunderland’s big German ‘keeper showed why he was brought to the club despite us being in a reasonable position with regards to goalkeepers when he arrived from Bayern Munich.

Hoffmann has shown great confidence playing out from the back, his command of his area is improving game-by-game whilst his save to deny Gillingham a headed equaliser was one of the saves of the season. A good goalkeeper can win you a large number of points over the course of a season, and Hoffmann was a key reason why we managed to leave Kent with all three points.

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

RB: Winchester CB: Flanagan CB: Doyle LB: Cirkin

Despite some injury worries further up the pitch, Sunderland’s back four actually picks itself once again as all of our first choice players are fit and available for tonight’s game. If you mentioned that Carl Winchester and Tom Flanagan would be in that first choice back four back in August, you’d have been worried about our recruitment. However, the performances of both these two, as well as Doyle and Cirkin, has meant that the absences of Hume and Huggins haven’t been felt too much so far.

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

RM: O’Brien CM: O’Nien CM: Neil LM: Pritchard

Just like in defence, Sunderland’s midfield four is also relatively easy to predict. However, whilst the back four is at full strength, our midfield four is simply the only four senior midfielders fit for selection today.

Luke O’Nien and Dan Neil have no competition for their places with Corry Evans unavailable, Carl Winchester needed at full back in the absence of Nial Huggins and with Harrison Sohna playing for the under 23s last night.

Out wide, Aiden O’Brien and Alex Pritchard both may play centrally with (or behind) Ross Stewart but there’s little doubt that both will start tonight with Embleton suspended and all other forward options out with injuries of various severities.

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

ST: Harris ST: Stewart

With Ellis Taylor and Tyrece Dyce both playing for the under 23s last night, it looks like it’ll be a straight shootout between Stephen Wearne and Will Harris to take Embleton’s place in the starting lineup for tonight’s game.

Although Wearne is a more like-for-like replacement, I’m backing Harris to partner Ross Stewart upfront after the young centre forward was chosen to come off the bench late in the game on Saturday afternoon.

Sunderland v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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