After a couple of poor results, Sunderland are in need of a win when they take on Doncaster Rovers at the Stadium of Light this afternoon.
Darren Moore's side have won four of their last five games in League One, but that one defeat came last time out against Fleetwood Town at Highbury and Lee Johnson will be looking to close the gap between the two sides to five points.
Going off Sunderland’s previous games against the better teams in League One, I think that it’s likely that we will see a change in formation to 4-3-3, with one of Sunderland’s front four making way for an extra body in midfield.
Here’s how I think The Lads will line up.
I have to admit I was surprised by Lee Johnson’s decision to drop Lee Burge from the starting line up last time out, and it's almost certain that he will have regretted that decision when Remi Matthews dropped a clanger for Shrewsbury’s equalising goal.
That said, the last thing the former Bristol City manager will want to do is rotate his goalkeepers, and this practically rules Burge out of the next couple of games.
The number one option if Matthews is to be dropped for his poor performance last time out should be Antony Patterson, but the Sunderland manager hinted in his press conference that Matthews will be given a chance to redeem himself this afternoon.
RB: Power CB: Sanderson CB: Wright LB: Vokins
Despite conceding four goals in the last two games, it's unlikely that Sunderland will make significant changes to their back four.
Jordan Willis was ruled out for the rest of the season after rupturing his patella tendon inside three minutes at Shrewsbury on Tuesday night. Dion Sanderson came on for the former Coventry captain in that game, and he’s expected to start alongside Bailey Wright this afternoon after being preferred to Tom Flanagan on the bench at New Meadow.
At right-back, Max Power now has some pressure on his position at right-back since Conor McLaughlin returned to the squad in midweek and although the Northern Irish full-back isn’t the most glamorous name in the Sunderland squad, he is a solid option should Power’s performances take a dip.
On the other side, Sunderland’s lack of a left-sided version of the solid back up offered by McLaughlin means that, despite a pretty horrendous start to his Sunderland career, Jake Vokins remains likely to start once again.
DM: Leadbitter CM: O’Nien CM: Scowen
With opposition from higher up in League One, it’s likely that we will see an extra man in midfield as Sunderland focus on counter-attacks rather than high pressing in order to create chances.
The switch to a three-man midfield is something that will suit Grant Leadbitter, who struggles for legs in a two-man midfield but when flanked by two players who can provide energy can dictate the game and turn it in Sunderland’s favour.
Alongside Sunderland’s club captain there are very few options beside Josh Scowen and Luke O’Nien since Carl Winchester is suffering from a minor injury. Both of these players have their flaws, but they are also the two players in Sunderland’s squad best suited to providing energy and allowing Leadbitter to concentrate on orchestrating Sunderland’s attacks.
RW: O’Brien ST: Wyke LW: McGeady
Despite the recent struggles in terms of results and at the back, one part of Sunderland’s game which hasn’t dipped is the attack and Aiden McGeady especially has looked to be key to Sunderland’s form going forward.
Add to McGeady’s chance creation the goalscoring for of Charlie Wyke and Aiden O’Brien’s recent goal against Shrewsbury and its clear where the strength of this side lies.
Although Jordan Jones has also impressed, and his pace would suit a more counter-attacking game plan, he's the favourite to miss out due to McGeady and Wyke being certainties under Lee Johnson, and O’Brien’s recent goal likely to make him preferred to Jones in a wide position.