Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be will be, We’re watching Sunderland at Wembley on TV...
Yes, in perhaps the most Sunderland move of all, we’ve reached a final as clear favourites for the first time this century in the year where none of us can go and watch.
Lee Johnson’s side come into this game in red hot form, but as we know from our experiences in 2019 a failure to win in a cup final can have a detrimental effect on the end of season form in the league, so a win today is important to keep our momentum going, regardless of the prestige of the silverware on offer.
Here’s how I think The Lads will line up.
All three of Sunderland's goalkeepers have featured in this competition during the season, but with Burge starting in the semi-final he is certain to start today despite Matthews being the most common inhabitant between the sticks in the Pizza Cup.
Burge is one of the few players in Sunderland’s squad to have happy memories of the national stadium, and his most recent trip to Wembley was in Coventry’s League Two play off final win back in 2018.
CB: McLaughlin CB: Flanagan CB: O’Nien
All of a sudden, Sunderland have some options in defence with the return of both Tom Flanagan and Conor McLaughlin for this game and Bailey Wright and Denver Hume close to making returns of their own.
However, with Dion Sanderson cup-tied, Sunderland will remain some way short of their best defence and his absence will lead to Tom Flanagan taking up the loanee’s place as the only natural centre back in Sunderland’s defence.
Due to Conor McLaughlin’s return, I can see Lee Johnson opting for a three-man defence or at least a lopsided back four, with the former Millwall player likely to replace Max Power on the right side whilst Luke O’Nien has done nothing to warrant his removal from left-centre back and will continue until at least Wright or Sanderson return.
RM: Gooch CM: Scowen CM: Power LM: McFadzean
Another reason why I think we could see a 3-4-3 formation from Sunderland this afternoon is the potential absence of Jordan Jones who went off with a tight hamstring during midweek.
Lynden Gooch is the most natural replacement for him, but whether it is he or Jack Diamond who replace the Rangers loanee in the starting line up Sunderland will possess a better fit for the right-wing-back role than the attacking Jones.
On the other flank, Callum McFadzean genuinely had a good game on Tuesday and for once deserves to keep his place rather than doing so by default. Playing as a wing-back helps to cover for his defensive weaknesses, and allows him to support McGeady more often despite his lack of pace.
In the middle of the pitch, Grant Leadbitter is in the squad for the game after his dislocated shoulder and offers the most like-for-like replacement for the cup-tied Winchester. However, with Conor McLaughlin also back I think Max Power will be the man to lead the teams out as he switches from full back to midfield playing alongside Josh Scowen who has formed a decent partnership with Winchester in recent league games.
RW: Maguire ST: Wyke LW: McGeady
Like Jones, Aiden O’Brien also went off injured during midweek, and although he has a better chance of starting than his teammate, the former Millwall attacker could lose his place in the starting line up to Chris Maguire, who has done himself no harm with strong substitute appearances in recent games.
As for the other two forwards, Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke pick themselves. The pair have combined for an obscene number of goals under Lee Johnson and will be looking for a repeat of the combination which resulted in Sunderland’s second goal during the 2019 final.
Hopefully this year, its in aid of a victory.