Sunderland’s four-nil win against Crewe in midweek marked our fourth victory in a row since being beaten at Portsmouth. Lee Johnson must have been impressed with the response of his side to their first major setback of the season and our promotion push is firmly back on track.
As well as the result, some more good news also emerged on Tuesday night in the form of returns for both Leon Dajaku and Aiden McGeady, and with Alex Pritchard’s removal unlikely to keep him out for this afternoon’s match Lee Johnson has some genuine competition for places for the first time in a few matches.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
One of the most important positions on the pitch has seen Sunderland make one of their best signings of the season with Thorben Hoffmann seemingly getting better with every passing game.
The big German stopper is the first name on the team sheet at the moment and, according to the xG stats, has already saved us almost 2 goals in just 7 matches.
RB: Winchester CB: Flanagan CB: Doyle LB: Cirkin
If Lee Johnson is yet to settle on a full strength forward line, he has quickly came across a consistent backline with Ron-Thorben Hoffmann being protected by the surprisingly well rounded partnership of Tom Flanagan and Callum Doyle who have both been excellent at the beginning of the campaign.
Out wide, Dennis Cirkin – like Hoffmann – has been getting better every game and his strong performances have allowed Denver Hume to take his time to come back from what has been a fairly lengthy injury lay off.
Carl Winchester is the only fit, senior right back at the club, excluding Luke O’Nien, but like Cirkin his performances have meant that Nial Huggins’ absence is yet to be felt.
RM: O’Brien CM: O’Nien CM: Neil LM: McGeady
After such a dominant performance during midweek, it would be no surprise to see Lee Johnson try and make as few changes as possible for today’s game.
Luke O’Nien and Dan Neil both start by default with all other senior options injured (Corry Evans) or needed elsewhere (Carl Winchester), but these two have both the necessary energy to play in a two-man midfield and also complement each other well in the middle of the park.
Out wide, Leon Dajaku put forward a convincing case to be given a start with his impressive cameo down at Crewe and Lynden Gooch could also be in contention to make his return, but I think the dependable pair of Aiden McGeady and Aiden O’Brien will be given another opportunity with Johnson knowing that some more pace is available off the bench.
ST: Pritchard ST: Stewart
With Elliot Embleton suspended for the next couple of games, Alex Pritchard has the chance to form a fruitful partnership with big centre forward Ross Stewart and to force Embleton into returning to the side in one of the wide areas.
Pritchard started the season slowly, but was impressive in the first half at Crewe and a run of games in the side could be just what the former Norwich and Huddersfield playmaker needs to get his career in red and white started.