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Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One - Stadium Of Light

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How seriously should Lee Johnson take tonight’s game?!

Sunderland, on the back of a frustrating loss on Saturday, take on higher division opposition tonight in the form of Queens Park Rangers. Given we have a league game in a few days, how seriously should we take it?

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Damian Brown says...

I don’t think any fixture should be taken lightly, particularly against a team a division above us - and where we’re aiming to be next season, no less.

In recent years our sole and primary focus has, by necessity, been entirely fixed on league success. Shallow squad depths, constant turbulence and a general lack of solidity and quality in the team have forced our hand and demanded that we use cup matches as glorified training games for the fringe players in the squad. I don’t think any of that applies this time round, at least not as urgently as recent seasons.

Whatever you may think of the importance of the tournament itself, games like this give us a chance to showcase our ability against potentially greater teams.

The impact of a victory on both squad and fan morale can’t be underestimated. The pleasure taken from success in any given tournament shouldn’t be scoffed at or derided - invariably football is about playing other teams and showing which club deserves to be there. Energy drinks and pizzas are just white noise.

The ideal of success and entertainment remains, and it should be respected.

That isn’t to say we should risk everything we have on something that ultimately doesn’t push us forward as a club, but we have bucket loads of talent and there’s no reason we can’t afford a sensible but strong, competitive team.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Phil West says...

Personally, I would like to see Lee Johnson rotate the squad to as great a degree as he feels he can for this game. We used two cup games to bounce back from the Portsmouth defeat, and I’ve banged the drum for the need to develop a winning habit, but with two very tricky away games in the league to come and the need to approach them with as strong a squad as possible, this feels like a game where the frontline first-team players should be rested and their places taken by some fringe and U23 players.

With that in mind, I’d be looking at the likes of Will Harris and Stephen Wearne tomorrow night, as well as Denver Hume and Fredrick Alves, as players to be included in the squad. It also might be a wise idea to include Lynden Gooch, as he continues his recovery from injury.

In the case of Harris and Wearne, it’s a good chance to show that they can step up to the first team and continue their form from U23 matches, and for Hume and Alves, they could use the match as a chance to impress Lee Johnson and possibly make a case for themselves to play a role in the upcoming league matches.

Our squad is deep, but it’s also been quite stretched recently, so the risk/reward factor has to be considered, and nobody would realistically give priority to tomorrow’s game over the next two league fixtures.

Tomorrow is a game I’d like us to win, but it’s also a game that I wouldn’t be overly concerned if we lost. So far, Lee Johnson’s rotation has worked quite well as we switch between league and cup, and hopefully, it continues tomorrow!

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

Jimmy Lowson says...

Philosophically, I’m closer to Phil than Damo. While Damo raises some good points about the value of winning, I just find it really difficult to care about the League Cup.

The depressing nature of modern football and Sunderland’s well-chronicled decline over the last half-decade means that even if we manage to squeak by Queens Park Rangers, we still stand little to no chance of winning the whole thing.

I think Johnson has laid out the blueprint for these matches brilliantly already this season. Whether by luck or design, we’ve beaten good teams and managed to rotate our team too. He should aim to repeat the trick tomorrow.

The one issue is that since we ran circles around Wigan, our depth has been decimated. It’s a shame that some of our League Cup all-stars are unavailable - tonight’s game would have been perfect for Niall Huggins and Nathan Broadhead.

Ultimately, I hope and expect Johnson to use a mixed eleven, prioritising those who need minutes, while playing enough first-teamers to ensure we’re competitive against dangerous opposition.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
The game comes too soon for Nathan Broadhead
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

I think we should take the game seriously.

This is the League Cup, and while some top-flight sides might not take it too seriously, I’d love us to make a fist of it and reach the quarter-finals.

Not only is it an opportunity for us as a League One side to test our mettle against higher placed opposition, but it is also a chance to go far in what is still a major domestic cup competition.

Lee Johnson will be keen to progress, I’m sure, but he can afford to be clever with his team selection. I’d go strong, rotating only where necessary if someone needs a rest or is nursing a knock. I don’t even think we need to worry about risking the likes of Stewart or Hoffmann, it is the same risk as it would be for any other game. They will undoubtedly want to test themselves against a Championship side and be part of it.

Yes the league is a priority and we have a few injuries, but this is why we have a big squad. Let’s go for it and see what we can do against QPR.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League 1
Time to rest Rosscoe?
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gary Engel says…

Firstly, Saturday’s match threw up some big questions for Lee Johnson to try and answer. This is our biggest test in the cups so far this season, having performed impressively in the last round and if we want to gauge how far we’ve come - this is a great chance.

While Johnson should take the match seriously, it is a great opportunity to give game time to our potential young starlets in the making as well as those returning to fitness.

If we are to overcome some of our short-comings, on display Saturday we need to be prepared to experiment. Given Will Harris’ recent displays, he is well-worth an opportunity up front.

Then, our somewhat lightweight central midfield looks as though it needs some experience and fight. Up against Championship opponents may be just the test to get Corrie Evans’ up to speed.

As much as we need to take every match seriously, it would be ill-advised to risk anyone any of our indispensable first-teamers when we have so many vying for their shot.

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

Malc Dugdale says...

The agenda for me is that it should be treated as a serious learning and development session, but in terms of the result... I couldn’t give less of a toss.

Yes, if we get a win against Championship opponents that will be a real boost after Saturday, but chances are that the personnel will be very different, and everything about this midweek outing needs to be prep and learning ready for a league rebound on Saturday.

Lee Johnson seems to take all games seriously and wants to win them all, which is admirable, but the main thing is to reset, learn, prepare and resume winning ways next weekend. That is literally all that matters.


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