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Sunderland v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy

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Starting XI: What will the Sunderland team be for today’s clash at Portman Road?

Here’s what we think...

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

With Corry Evans, Dennis Cirkin and Denver Hume coming back from injury, Lee Johnson could soon have a few more bodies to choose from – which will be very welcome after a month or so of operating with a senior squad of 14 players. Coming off the back of an impressive win against Plymouth, the lads will be looking to keep up the momentum against an Ipswich side who’ve struggled in recent weeks, but who will be watched from the stands by their new manager, Kieran McKenna.

Goalkeeper: Thorben Hoffmann

Hoffmann probably should have done better with Plymouth’s goal last weekend, but pulled off some good saves during the game and has firmly established himself as the club’s number one.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Defence: Bailey Wright, Tom Flanagan, Callum Doyle, Denver Hume

Lynden Gooch has been tremendous at left back over recent weeks, but the groin strain he suffered during the first half against Plymouth is likely to see him ruled out today. Lee Johnson said he’d be cautious with Gooch, and given that – as well as a busy festive fixture list, Covid-permitting – I think we’ll see him sit it out today. Bailey Wright’s been a revelation at right back, and with Flanagan and Doyle having a good partnership in the centre it’s likely the three of them will retain their places. Replacing Gooch could be Denver Hume – the full back has frustratingly been out at the same time as first choice Dennis Cirkin, but has a lot to offer, and I’m looking forward to seeing him back in action.

Sunderland v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy
Hume could come straight back into the team
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Carl Winchester, Dan Neil

With Evans still a few training sessions away from returning to action, it’s almost certain Winchester and Neil will play in the middle of the park. The two of them have formed a good partnership in recent weeks, and provide the platform for the front four to play.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One
Winchester has been excellent in midfield – and at full back
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Attacking midfield: Leon Dajaku, Alex Pritchard, Nathan Broadhead

Alex Pritchard has really come into form over recent weeks. He’s obviously a class act, but now he seems to have found his place in the team – and the team is now using him to good effect. Either side of him, Leon Dajaku and Nathan Broadhead are also coming into form – Broadhead’s just a cracking footballer, and Dajaku – while clearly raw – has bags of potential. The three of them offer a real goal threat and have been on the mark in recent weeks. After last year’s reliance on one scorer, it’s pleasing to see the goals getting shared around.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One
Goals, goals, goals
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Striker: Ross Stewart

Stewart is a continual threat going forward, links play well and is a huge asset defensively, too. While in some respects he could do with a rest, he keeps plugging away and is always likely to get on the scoresheet.


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