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Sunderland v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy

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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Mansfield this afternoon?

Sunderland return to the Stadium of Light this afternoon as we take on Mansfield in the FA Cup. We have a go at predicting the side that’ll take on Nigel Clough’s Stags.

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

After three disappointing league performances and results – punctuated by that cup win at QPR – Lee Johnson’s got an interesting team selection this afternoon. Does he allow some of the first team players a much-needed rest over the next couple of weeks, or does the need for a confidence-boosting win override that – particularly given that, after we face Bradford on Tuesday in the Papa Johns Trophy, we have a week and a half’s rest before facing Ipswich on the 21 November.

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

GK: Lee Burge

Lee Burge performed admirably in the Carabao Cup game with QPR, and is putting pressure on young Thorban Hoffmann, who after an impressive start to his Sunderland career has looked a little suspect in the past two games.

We all know what Burge is capable of – he’d be first choice for the majority of other League One clubs, and he’ll be relishing the chance to apply more pressure on the Bayern Munich loanee in a bid to win back his league shirt.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Round of 16
Burge was superb against QPR, and will surely get another chance to push Hoffmann against Mansfield this afternoon
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

RB: Carl Winchester, CB: Fred Alves, CB: Bailey Wright, LB: Dennis Cirkin

From looking solid and composed earlier in the season, the centre of our defence has looked pretty shaky recently, and this is one area of the team I think Lee Johnson will be thinking seriously about making changes to for our next league fixture. It’s really now or never for Frederick Alves, who must be wondering what the hell he has to do to get a run of games, and I think Johnson will give the West Ham loanee and Bailey Wright the chance to establish a partnership that looked very promising at QPR.

Given the changes at centre half – and general lack of options – I suspect we’ll go with our regular fullbacks for this game, although given Cirkin is going away with the England U-20s Johnson may consider resting him.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Carabao Cup - Fourth Round - Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
Alves will surely start today
Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

CM: Corry Evans CM: Luke O’Nien

Centre midfield’s the area we’ve got a real lack of options, particularly with Carl Winchester deployed at full back. With Dan Neil being called up to the England under 20 squad, I would think it wise to let him sit out this fixture, which leaves Evans – who needs to build up his fitness – and O’Nien – who also needs a rest – to fill the midfield berths.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One - Stadium Of Light
Evans is likely to start as he continues to build his fitness
Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

RW: Lynden Gooch AM: Stephen Wearne LW: Elliot Embleton

Lynden Gooch was poor on Tuesday night, but he was far from the only one and, with him being another player working his way back to fitness, he’ll be given another start to help him build up to peak condition. After being around the first team squad in recent weeks, following impressive performances in the Trophy, I expect Stephen Wearne to be given a start, while I think Elliot Embleton will be given an opportunity in a wider attacking position – he’s looked better coming off the wing this season and it’d be interesting to see how he performs out there. The other option to come into a wide role, of course, is Dajaku, and he could well play a decent chunk of the second half from the bench.

The three behind our central striker haven’t been firing over the past few weeks, and this is a great opportunity for players to really stake their claim.

Sunderland v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy
Stephen Wearne’s impressed in the Trophy this season, and could be given his first ‘proper’ start today
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

CF: Nathan Broadhead

The only good news from Tuesday’s defeat was Nathan Broadhead’s return to action. The Welshman was superb in his last appearance versus Cheltenham, and can really add a lot of quality to our attack. I think he’ll start in place of Stewart, which is a win/win really – it enables Broadhead to build up his fitness, and enables us to give Stewart a decent rest before we return to league action.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
Good to be back!
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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