Well, there’s never a dull week at Sunderland AFC and this week has been no different,with a comprehensive victory last Saturday followed up by a penalty shoot-out to reach Wembley and finally a takeover by a 23 (or 24) year-old billionaire and the departure of the club's CEO.
Add to this the fact that only one player has scored all of our five goals in the past seven days, all of which were assisted by the same player, and the stage is set for Sunderland to bring us all crashing back down to earth with a one-nil defeat at bottom of the league Burton Albion.
On the injury front, Sunderland will be sweating over the availability of Bailey Wright who Lee Johnson stated in his press conference on Thursday was 50/50 for this weekend’s game. Jordan Willis and Arbenit Xhemajli are both out for the rest of the season and Ollie Younger and Tom Flanagan both seem to be injured for this game so Wright’s fitness is key if Lee Johnson is to avoid fielding another make-shift defence.
Here’s how I think The Lads will line up.
After saving two penalties last Saturday, and getting close to a couple of Lincoln’s spot-kicks in the Papa John’s Trophy during midweek, Lee Burge has bounced back well after being left out for the league game against Shrewsbury Town ten days ago.
Questions may be asked about Burge’s tendency to push the ball back into danger, something which led to Lincoln’s only goal on Wednesday night, but when his understudy is unable to even make the initial save this is not a fault that will lead to him losing his starting spot for the rest of this season.
RB: McLaughlin CB: Sanderson CB: Wright LB: Vokins
Despite a number of injury concerns at the back, Sunderland will be able to call on Dion Sanderson to play at the heart of defence after he returns from being cup-tied during midweek.
The Wolves loanee looks like a classy player who is destined to play at the highest level during his career and his ability on the ball and pace to cover his defensive partner makes him a more than able deputy for the injured Jordan Willis.
Alongside Sanderson, Bailey Wright is 50/50 for this game and I expect him to be risked after he was in a similar position going into Tuesday’s cup clash and was chosen in the starting line up by Lee Johnson. Johnson will be thinking that if Wright can get through this weekend’s game and Younger or Flanagan can return to fitness soon then the Sunderland vice-captain can be given a rest sometime in the next fortnight.
At full-back, Conor McLaughlin is a guaranteed start even if he ends up at centre back in the event of Wright’s absence. He provides a solid base for Sunderland’s more exciting players to attack from and his decent form has allowed both Luke O’Nien and Max Power to move into midfield.
Significantly less solid is Jake Vokins who has consistently stuck out as a weak link in the Sunderland back four since signing on loan at the end of the January transfer window. McFadzean's concussion means he is like to get another chance today to show that he has something to offer in a side which - playing 4-3-3 - perhaps gives him a bit more cover than the last time he appeared in Red and White.
DM: Power CM: O’Nien CM: Scowen
Sunderland’s three-man midfield has immediately resulted in an upturn in form and there is no reason to expect Lee Johnson to abandon this formation any time soon.
Max Power is the player who could move out of midfield to cover for McLaughlin at full-back if Bailey Wright is unavailable, with Grant Leadbitter likely to be the man to step in for the Sunderland captain.
However, it is hoped that we will be able to call upon the same midfield which performed so well against Doncaster last weekend, which means Power starting at the base of midfield with Josh Scowen and Luke O’Nien continuing to operate in more advanced positions.
RW: Gooch ST: Wyke LW: McGeady
Like in midfield, Lee Johnson will be seeking to remain as consistent as possible in his team selection. After combining to score five goals in the last week, Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke would probably both start even if they were missing a leg for this weekend’s game.
Lynden Gooch has gone under the radar since his return to the side on the right of Sunderland’s front three, but Lee Johnson clearly sees him as more of a wide forward, when compared with Diamond who is an out-and-out winger, meaning his role in the side is key if Sunderland are to get support around the lone striker.