If last weekend’s defeat to Charlton meant Sunderland lost their margin for error, they now probably need to win all of their remaining games and hope that Hull or Peterborough slip up if Lee Johnson’s side is to climb into the top two before the end of the season.
On the injury front, Denver Hume and Bailey Wright both started in midweek and should do so again today however Dion Sanderson and Conor McLaughlin are both out, along with Willis, Xhemajli and Vokins.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
With Tuesday marking another game without a clean sheet in what has been a slightly worrying change from not-too-distant form, the last thing Lee Burge will have wanted was for Dion Sanderson to be ruled out with an injury just as Bailey Wright made his return to the side.
That being said, Burge himself can take very little of the blame for the last couple of defeats and he will continue this afternoon.
RB: Power CB: Wright CB: O’Nien LB: Hume
With Dion Sanderson’s injury, Luke O’Nien is almost guaranteed to return to centre back after a brief spell on the right during Tuesday’s defeat at Wigan.
If Conor McLaughlin was fit I think there’s a good chance that he would have partnered Bailey Wright at the heart of the defence, but his absence means its likely that both O’Nien and Power will be playing out of position for the next few games as the latter goes back to right-back following his shocking performance in midfield during midweek.
On the left, Denver Hume started at Wigan but his attacking abilities were limited due to the threat of Callum Lang and the use of Jack Diamond rather than Aiden McGeady ahead of him. There’s a good chance we’ll see more of Hume going forwards today as Johnson makes some changes further up the pitch.
CM: Scowen CM: Leadbitter
After a frankly shocking performance by Sunderland’s midfield two on Tuesday night, I’m quite surprised to see myself backing both Scowen and Power to start today’s game. However, the injury to Conor McLaughlin means that Power will be needed at full back, and without the Sunderland captain Scowen is the only ball-winner left to start in midfield.
Alongside him, it’s probably a toss-up between Grant Leadbitter and Carl Winchester but since the veteran midfielder was on the bench during midweek, Winchester only found himself there after McLaughlin’s injury, I’m backing Leadbitter to get the nod for today’s game.
RM: Diamond AM: O’Brien LM: McGeady
Lee Johnson mixed up his attacking plans for the game in midweek following last weekend’s defeat to Charlton by putting Aiden McGeady in the number ten role for the first time in his 4-2-3-1 formation.
Whilst McGeady himself played quite well, and got the assist for Charlie Wyke’s first-half goal, the free role afforded to Sunderland’s attacking talisman left our midfield exposed and for that reason, I’m expecting Aiden O’Brien to return in the number ten position whilst McGeady returns to his position cutting in from the left-hand side.
On the right, Jack Diamond, Jordan Jones and Lynden Gooch are the three options to play the high and wide role which Johnson likes to contrast with McGeady’s role on the left. I’m hoping Johnson picks Diamond after his good showing on Tuesday night, especially given the poor form of Gooch.
The one positive from Tuesday’s defeat was the goal scored by Charlie Wyke which saw the return of the Wyke-McGeady partnership that was such an important part of our good run of form.
If Sunderland are to claw our way into the top two before the end of the season, it's almost certain that Charlie Wyke will continue his goalscoring form from the first 40 games of the season.