It’s that time again when we look for clues as to how Lee Johnson’s cup competition selection wheel will land ahead of our trip to Blackpool in the second round of the Carabao Cup.
There are players who looked as if they could do with a rest against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday and there are loan signings, as well as one permanent capture, who all need minutes in a red and white shirt - so should be pretty obvious, right?!
Let’s give it a go and see what Lee Johnson might put out at Bloomfield road tonight...
In between the sticks...
If Lee Burge had suffered a more serious injury I might have thought twice about this, but since he only dropped to the bench ahead of kick-off on Saturday, Anthony Patterson should continue to collect much-needed first team minutes.
If Lee Burge requires a bit of treatment this week we could well see 20-year-old Jacob Carney on the bench who we brought in after he left Manchester United in the summer.
RB: Huggins, CB: Alves, CB: Wright, LB: Cirkin
Lee Johnson’s comments in the days following the AFC Wimbledon game means it would be a surprise if this isn’t our backline this evening.
The manager will be eager to give Niall Huggins his debut at full-back, and has stated that he wants to look at Fredrick Alves and Bailey Wright as a partnership at the back.
Dennis Cirkin is also another who is trying to improve his match fitness and will want to complete his first full 90 minutes for the club.
Middle of the park...
CM: Neil, CM: Winchester
Part of me thinks Lee Johnson will want to give Dan Neil a night off, and another part of me thinks it would be good to keep him rolling while he is in such good form. The other aspect of this decision is the options at Lee Johnson’s disposal if he did rest Dan Neil.
With Luke O’Nien struggling with his shoulder and Corry Evans still getting back to fitness, there aren’t too many options remaining.
The manager had hinted that Niall Huggins has previously played as a central midfielder, so it isn’t impossible that Huggins could start alongside Winchester in the middle, with Oliver Younger coming in at full-back. But that’s probably clutching at straws on my part to find different options and it’s doubtful Johnson would want to play Huggins out of his natural position on his debut.
Carl Winchester was impressive at full-back on Saturday and deserves a crack in his more accustomed role in central midfield tonight.
RM: Diamond, AM: Pritchard, LM: Broadhead
It was clear on Saturday that the likes of Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch could be better served by being given the night off tonight at Blackpool, and it could provide opportunities for the likes of Jack Diamond - who is an interesting one to look out for tonight.
With speculation that offers have come in to take the 21-year-old from Sunderland on loan, it may be an opportunity to show that he should be in the manager’s thinking for at least a regular place on the bench.
Alex Pritchard is another new signing who is in desperate need of minutes on the pitch so should feature tonight, as is Nathan Broadhead who I’m putting down for a starting place wide on the left.
Lee Johnson could just as easily go with Josh Hawkes on the left as he did at Port Vale in the previous round - and as he got the opening goal it might be harsh not to give him another opportunity - but after the on-loan signing from Everton replaced McGeady out wide on Saturday, the manager might want to see how he performs down the flank from the off.
Another reason why Broadhead might be deployed out wide is the need for minutes for Aiden O’Brien.
It’s hard to tell what role the ex-Millwall forward might play in this team, and I think there was a hint in pre-season that we might see him more in that role immediately behind the striker, but with Embleton and Pritchard fighting that out, O’Brien may struggle for an opportunity.
So tonight could be another chance for Aiden O’Brien to show he has a future in this Sunderland side - before the transfer window closes exactly one week today.