With just eight games to go, including a potentially season-defining clash with league leaders Hull City later this month, every game is important and today’s clash with Charlton Athletic is no different.
On the injury front, Denver Hume made his return from the bench against Peterborough on Monday and is “close” to making a return to the starting line up according to Lee Johnson. Bailey Wright, Tom Flanagan and Jake Vokins all remain out but should return before the end of the season whilst Jordan Willis and Arbenit Xhemajli are long term absentees.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
After going two games without a clean sheet over the Easter weekend, Lee Burge will be keen to notch his 19th shut-out of the season this afternoon.
Despite conceding in both Easter games, Burge is the number one and will start today.
RB: Power CB: Sanderson CB: O’Nien LB: Hume
With Bailey Wright still unable to make a return, the duo of Luke O’Nien and Dion Sanderson will start in the middle of the back four. O’Nien’s form has reverted back to the mean in recent weeks, and certain minor errors have shown why his more natural position is at full back or in midfield, but the pair have performed exceptionally well given their inexperience in the position.
At right back, Max Power started against Peterborough as Lee Johnson picked Winchester and Leadbitter in midfield and although I expect a change in the middle of the park it’s unlikely that Power returns to his natural position, and there’s no chance of him missing out given his status as captain.
On the left, Callum McFadzean showed his vulnerabilities once against after being too weak in the build up to the Peterborough goal, Denver Hume made his return from the bench in that game and is hopefully ready to start this afternoon.
CM: Scowen CM: Winchester
Although Leadbitter and Winchester performed well in the first half at Peterborough, Lee Johnson hinted before the game that their selection was based on the poor quality of the pitch meaning we’re likely to see at least one of the two drop out as we return to the Stadium of Light.
I’m picking Grant Leadbitter to be the man to miss out since Winchester is both the more attacking and more mobile option.
Alongside the former Forest Green midfielder, Josh Scowen has been reborn under Lee Johnson after frequently playing out of position under the previous manager. He should come back into the side in order to allow Max Power to stay at right back.
RM: Jones AM: O’Brien LM: McGeady
After opting to play both of his strikers on Monday afternoon, it’s likely that Lee Johnson reverts to the 4-2-3-1 shape which has been his preferred method of attack during our recent good form.
That means Aiden O’Brien is in line to return to the side after missing out on the starting line up for the two games following his winning goal at Bristol Rovers. The former Millwall attacker seems to bring the best out of Charlie Wyke, and whilst he doesn’t offer the same goal threat as Lynden Gooch he does link the two parts of Sunderland’s midfield better than the Californian.
In the wide areas, Sunderland probably wouldn’t swap either of their starting players for anyone in the division and Aiden McGeady, he match-saver from Monday, and Jordan Jones will be key for the promotion push over the next eight games.
Despite not scoring in his last four games, Charlie Wyke remains the first choice striker and his consistent selection proves that.
He was asked to play more of a creative role when operating ahead of Lynden Gooch on Good Friday, but with O’Brien set to come back into the starting line up today we could see the big number nine’s shooting boots return against Nigel Adkins’ side.