After suffering our first defeat of the season against Burton 10 days ago, Sunderland have got straight back on track first with a win against Wimbledon at the Stadium of Light last Saturday, and then a thrilling 3-2 win away at Blackpool in the cup on Tuesday night.
Sunderland may be short in midfield once again, Winchester and Neil were the only two senior players available for Tuesday night in their position, with Luke O’Nien suffering a shoulder injury last weekend and Corry Evans touch and go as he looks to return from his injury a few weeks ago.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
GK: Anthony Patterson
Just as news broke about a potential new signing which would have made Anthony Patterson the third choice ‘keeper and looking for a loan spell away from the club, one injury to Lee Burge and a couple of decent performances from our young stopper and it looks as though Patto will be getting his 25 senior games at the Stadium of Light this year.
This equation pay change if a ‘keeper of Vito Mannone’s quality does come in, but there’s little to separate Burge and Patterson at the moment and the youngster should be given the nod due to his higher ceiling.
RB: Huggins CB: Flanagan CB: Doyle LB: Cirkin
Thankfully, just as Sunderland required their out-of-position midfield players to play in their natural positions due to injuries to our first choice pair in the engine room, Niall Huggins signed from Leeds meaning we’re likely to see two natural full backs on both sides for the first time in the league this season.
With Huggins on the right and Cirkin on the left, Callum Doyle and Tom Flanagan will likely be the only consistencies in the back five since the start of the season and whilst Doyle has rightly won the plaudits for his assured performances at just seventeen years old, his defensive partner deserves plenty of credit for his start to the season as well.
CM: Neil CM: Winchester
Even though Sunderland could be without their two first choice centre midfielders for today’s game, a potential pairing of Carl Winchester and Dan Neil provides me more with excitement than fear or trepidation.
Young Neil has been one of our best performers this term, especially when used in midfield, and he deserves to keep his place in the side regardless of the fitness status of Evans and O’Nien.
Carl Winchester is a slight different case. Having only played at full back from the start during league games, he played in midfield at Burton when we were chasing the game, and we still don’t really know how good this Lad is in his natural position.
Having said that, he got a goal from range last weekend and if he can provide 4 or 5 goals over the course of the season from the holding midfield role then that could be enough to nudge Winchester ahead of O’Nien and Evans in the pecking order.
RM: O’Brien AM: Embleton LM: McGeady
For all the positives to come from Tuesday’s win in the cup, the hat trick scored by Aiden O’Brien along with assists for Pritchard and Diamond will be giving Lee Johnson the right kind of selection headaches going into today’s game.
O’Brien is probably the only player who has to be rewarded with a start, if he doesn't get one after a hattrick then he never will, so I think Lynden Gooch could drop out of the side in order to allow Sunderland’s number ten one of the attacking midfield positions.
Diamond and Pritchard could both put in a good case to get in ahead of McGeady at the minute, Elliot Embleton seems to be the first name on the team sheet, be it in a deeper role, out wide or in the hole, so is certain to be in the side again and since Johnson has shown loyalty to Geads since he joined the club I can see him sticking with last season’s talisman.
Despite the arrival of Broadhead on loan from Everton, Sunderland remain in the market for a forward player to act as backup to Ross Stewart.
If recent performances are anything to go by then backup is all than any player will be doing in Ross Stewart’s position, unless the big Scot suffers an injury, so we can expect the Loch Ness Drogba to continue this afternoon.