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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Portsmouth this evening?

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Who do you reckon will make Lee Johnson’s starting eleven for tonight’s game against Pompey at Fratton Park?

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With a couple of good wins on the spin, the disappointing draw against Crewe Alexandra looks like a minor blip rather than the start of a downturn in Sunderland’s fortunes.

After a solid performance and it likely that injured players such as Bailey Wright, Tom Flanagan and Grant Leadbitter will be targeting Sunday’s cup final rather than tonight’s match as their comeback, I don’t envisage a large number of changes to the starting eleven, even if we could see some different faces on the bench.

Here’s how I think The Lads will line up.


GK: Burge

As I say before every week and will continue to do so between now and the end of the season, Lee Burge is our best goalkeeper by far, he is probably one of the better ‘keepers in the division and he has been part of a team with the best defensive record in League One.

If Lee Burge is fit, Lee Burge starts.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RB: Younger CB: Sanderson CB: O’Nien LB: McFadzean

Well, I was right to think that Oliver Younger was in line for a start last weekend, but I didn't see him playing at right-back whilst McFadzean continued on the other side.

However, the young defender put in a decent performance and probably deserves another start as Sunderland wait for the return of their more experienced defenders in the coming weeks.

The same could be said for the rest of Saturday's back four, with Dion Sanderson getting his first goal for the club to put some icing on the cake which is his good form since replacing Jordan Willis in the side and Luke O'Nien growing into his new role as a left-sided centre back. On the left Callum McFadzean even had one of his better games in Red and White, even if that's a rather low bar.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

DM: Power CM: Winchester CM: Maguire

Against Rochdale, Sunderland continued to use a fairly fluid midfield trio, sometimes consisting of one holding midfielder with two further forward and at other times using two holding players and one attacking midfielder.

The two more defensive players pick themselves, with Max Power the captain sure to start either in midfield or at full back and Carl Winchester (pending his availability after coming off injured on Saturday) currently in the middle of a run of games allowed to him by Grant Leadbitter's recent injury, but the more attacking player is currently up for grabs.

Aiden O'Brien started in this role on Saturday, and although he consistently does the off the ball work required, he is more suited to a second striker role rather than dropping into midfield, and he can often be wasteful in possession.

That's why I would give Chris Maguire a start in tonight's game, he is well suited to a role halfway between a centre midfielder and a number ten, and his recent substitute performances deserve a reward. Oh, and it's Portsmouth.

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

RW: Jones LW: McGeady ST: Wyke

Up front, with Lynden Gooch's injury the same trio from Saturday are likely to play. Jordan Jones and Aiden McGeady both show flashes of goal-creating quality almost every time they step onto the pitch, and both also benefit from the wider position in a 4-3-3 formation compared with the narrow positions Johnson's wingers played in the 4-2-2-2.

As for Charlie Wyke, Saturday was another game and another goal, hopefully tonight will be the same.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images