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Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Memorial Stadium

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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Oxford United this afternoon?

Who do you reckon will make Lee Johnson’s starting eleven this afternoon as Sunderland look to get the better of last season’s Play-Off Finalists?

Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Coming off the back of a second successive midweek without a fixture, Sunderland are going into the Easter double-header with a significantly deeper squad than the one which managed to win one-nil at Bristol Rovers last Saturday.

Conor McLaughlin is back after international duty, and both Denver Hume and Jordan Jones are likely to be in the squad, if not the starting eleven, for this weekend’s games.

Bailey Wright remains out, along with Jordan Willis, Arbenit Xhemajli, Jake Vokins and Tom Flanagan, but should be ready to return following this weekend’s double-header.

Here’s how I think the Lads will line up in our first game of the Easter weekend, against last season’s Play-off finalists Oxford United.


GK: Burge

One of the first names on the team sheet at the minute, Lee Burge is in the process of making a strong case to be offered a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the season.

For what it’s worth, I think Burge would be a very good number one if we are to fail in our bid o get promoted this year, although if we do manage to go up his role in the side would likely be as a number two - a position he may wish to avoid having spent last season as Jon McLaughlin's understudy.

Regardless of his contract situation, Burge is the best 'keeper at the club and will start this afternoon.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

RB: Power CB: Sanderson CB: O'Nien LB: McFadzean

With Bailey Wright still out for the next couple of games, the centre back duo of Luke O'Nien and Dion Sanderson is set to continue, although Conor McLaughlin's return does provide a semblance of cover in the heart of the back line.

The real question marks for Lee Johnson pertain to the full backs, with McLaughlin certainly back and Hume's return a possibility, we could see two changes to the Sunderland backline for this afternoon's game.

However, that is unlikely and think Johnson will show faith in the back four which kept a clean sheet in our last game. Max Power will start every game as captain, especially in the absence of Wright, but I put others ahead of him in the midfield pecking order.

On the left, Hume is undoubtedly the best left back at the club but has been out for a while, and it makes sense to use today's game as an opportunity to bring him off the bench before looking to start the young full back in Monday's game against Peterborough.

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

CM: Winchester CM: Scowen

Those two players who I put ahead of Max Power in the midfield pecking order are Josh Scowen and Carl Winchester, two players who have formed a good partnership when used together in a double-pivot in Lee Johnson's 4-2-3-1 formation.

Both players have enough energy to cover for one another, but they also complement each other’s style of play well, with Scowen offering tenacity and ball-winning and Winchester the more accomplished passer.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Memorial Stadium Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

RM: Diamond AM: O'Brien LM: McGeady

Perhaps the most likely position to see a change for today's game is the right wing, with Lynden Gooch's performances having been poor in recent weeks and Jordan Jones' return putting the pressure on the American's spot in the starting line up.

I do think that Gooch will drop out of the side today, but instead of Jones - who I believe will be eased back in ready for a start on Monday - I'm backing Jack Diamond to celebrate his new contract with a start today.

The other two players from the attacking midfield, O'Brien and McGeady, are both sure to start with the letter assisting the former for the only goal of the game last weekend.

Sunderland AFC

ST: Wyke

As always, the final spot in the team goes to Charlie Wyke who continues to lead the line well. His performances under Johnson have seen him go from a decent goalscorer but not much else at the beginning of the season, to a player who contributes to the team's overall play whether he finds his name on the scoresheet or not.

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

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