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Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy

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Starting XI: Is this the team that Lee Johnson will send out to face Ipswich this afternoon?

We think Sunderland will make three changes this afternoon – with a tweak in formation, too.

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There are a number of big decisions for Lee Johnson this afternoon as he looks to address the recent slump in results. With two weeks to mull over the deficiencies we’ve shown over the last six weeks or so, Johnson is likely to make a couple of tactical changes, and I suspect we’ll go for a flexible 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation with Nathan Broadhead partnering Ross Stewart up front.

Goalkeeper: Thorben Hoffmann

The big German loanee hasn’t been at his best in the past few league games, but he’s far from the only one. While there had been calls for Lee Burge to replace him, particularly after Burge’s fine game at QPR, the ex-Coventry man’s error that led to the only goal in our FA Cup tie last time out has firmly dampened those voices.

Burge has picked up an injury and Anthony Patterson has been recalled from his loan spell with Notts County, for whom he’s been in fine form. In reality, Patterson probably offers a bigger threat to Hoffman’s position in the team than Burge does.

Sunderland v Bradford City - EFL Trophy
Hoffmann played in the EFL Trophy game against Bradford
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Defence: Carl Winchester, Fred Alves, Tom Flanagan, Dennis Cirkin

We’ve been all over the shop at the back during the last few league games, and Lee Johnson is bound to consider some changes.

Callum Doyle started the season well, but with Fred Alves patiently waiting for an opportunity I suspect the West Ham loanee will be given an opportunity to impress. Ultimately, if he doesn’t get a chance today, he never will.

Alongside him, Tom Flanagan – who helped Northern Ireland to a clean sheet against Italy in midweek – will probably retain his place.

At full back, our options are limited, so I expect it to be as you were, with Winchester and Cirkin retaining their places.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
Will Alves be given a start today?
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Midfield: Lynden Gooch, Corry Evans, Dan Neil, Elliot Embleton

Lee Johnson’s got some big decisions to make this weekend, and the majority of them come in midfield.

I think Corry Evans has to start in midfield for his leadership and control, and Dan Neil’s surely got to be in the centre of the park, too. Johnson spoke about Lynden Gooch getting minutes in during the break, and I expect him to start on the right.

While McGeady is fit and raring to go, I think we’ll go for someone with a bit more work rate ahead of Cirkin – Elliot Embleton could get the nod. Of course, that leaves Luke O’Nien on the sidelines, and I don’t think that’ll be a bad thing for a week or two.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Dan Neil has to start in the centre of midfield
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Forwards: Nathan Broadhead, Ross Stewart

Ross Stewart has been a shining light all season, and Nathan Broadhead has impressed whenever he’s had an opportunity.

The latter has missed a lot of action since the only time he partnered Stewart up front from the start – against Cheltenham – and his return to fitness is very timely indeed.

I expect Broadhead and Stewart to line up from the start, as we look to take the game to Ipswich from the off.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
Nathan Broadhead is likely to return to the starting XI today
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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