Despite needing a win to break our poor run of form, Lee Johnson’s previous team selections in this competition suggest that we’ll see a much-changed side from the already heavily rotated starting eleven that played against Mansfield on Saturday.
Without a game at the weekend, now seems like a good time for Johnson to give his senior players the chance to get away for a few days and return to the club ready to re-start our promotion challenge.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
Although Jacob Carney started the season as Sunderland’s fourth choice between the sticks, there was always a decent chance that he would see some game time in this competition.
Anthony Patterson is probably eyed up as next season’s back-up stopper, so Carney is looking to develop enough to earn himself a loan move to get his own taste of senior football. Until then, he’s likely to be eased into men’s football with a few appearances in tonight’s competition.
RB: Richardson CB: Younger CB: Xhemajli LB: Dyce
If one senior player starts tonight’s match I fully expect it to be centre-back Arbenit Xhemajli. The Kosovan has been rightly eased back into action with a few performances for the under 23s and tonight’s first team cup game seems like a good bridge between youth football and a full senior league game.
Alongside Xhemajli, Ollie Younger’s experience will probably bag him a start ahead of Patrick Almond - with the latter likely to replace Xhemajli off the bench at one point.
Finally, Denver Hume’s latest injury means that Tyrece Dyce is the main candidate to fill in on the left side of our back four.
RM: Taylor CM: Scott CM: Sohna LM: Kimpioka
Sunderland have consistently been short in midfield depth this season, so it would be no surprise to see pair of under 23 regulars Tom Scott and Harrison Sohna starting in the engine room for tonight’s cup game.
On the wings, young talent Ellis Taylor has made the Papa John’s Trophy his main way of trying to force his way into the senior squad, whilst Benji Kimpioka’s recent hat trick for the youth team could make Lee Johnson conclude that he is read of a larger role following a loan spell away from the club.
ST: Wearne ST: Harris
Continuing the theme of Lee Johnson using this cup competition to test his youngsters out against adult opposition, Stephen Wearne and Will Harris have both successfully used the Papa John’s Trophy as a way of showing they can play a bit-part role in our league campaign.
I expect both players to start through the middle tonight, and hopefully, the pair will grab the goals needed to send us cruising into the next round and to break our recent poor run of results.