After an unbeaten pre-season ended with a win over championship side Hull City, Sunderland will be keen to get another win today back at the Stadium of Light as the real stuff gets underway.
Wigan have made a number of notable signings after they were playing catch up when compared to their League One rivals due to financial difficulties last season, hopefully Max Power, Charlie Wyke and Jordan Jones don’t come back to haunt their former club this afternoon.
At Sunderland, there still hasn’t been a full back signed yet, but Dennis Cirkin’s arrival from Spurs seems imminent so this should be the only game we see a square peg in that particular round hole.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
GK: Lee Burge
Although Anthony Patterson played more in pre-season, partly due to Burge missing the game against Hull with illness, the young ‘keeper looked in need of some more first-team experience before he is ready to take the gloves full time, and I fully expect Lee Burge to continue as our first choice stopper going into the new season.
Burge is a fairly mediocre ‘keeper in truth, and whilst he is likely to be partly to blame for a few goals over the course of the season, he does rarely make any horrific mistakes.
With an inexperienced and makeshift defence, the older head of Burge makes sense this afternoon.
RB: Winchester CB: Flanagan CB: Doyle LB: Neil
Considering Sunderland don’t have any senior full-backs on the books, the back four for today’s game is actually rather predictable.
Carl Winchester has been first choice right-back throughout pre-season and looks set to continue in this role until a deal can be agreed for one, if not two, new signings in this position.
On the left, Dan Neil’s strong performances in midfield at the start of pre-season put him above Tyrece Dyce in the pecking order at left back and although this will probably be Neil’s only game at full back since Cirkin is set to sign, I expect the young midfielder to be give his first appearance of many this season.
CM: O’Nien CM: Evans
Since Sunderland’s two understudies in the double pivot are expected to start at full back, the midfield picks itself for our upcoming game.
New captain Corry Evans is certain to make his competitive debut with the armband, whilst fellow member of the leadership group Luke O’Nien should start his first season as a full-time midfielder after playing his first two years at the Stadium of Light in defence.
RM: Gooch AM: Embleton LM: McGeady
At the top of the pitch, Sunderland do have some options, especially with Alex Pritchard likely to be in the squad and looking for his first start in Red and White, and with Jack Diamond having enjoyed a promising pre-season.
However, none of the Sunderland attackers have been as impressive as Elliot Embleton and I fully expect him to start in the number ten position, with last year’s best creator Aiden McGeady to his left and the most experienced Lynden Gooch prefered over Jack Diamond.
Up top, Ross Stewart grabbed his first goal of pre-season and since his understudy is yet to arrive, Will Grigg is likely to be an option off the bench rather than someone to put pressure on Stewart for his starting place. The big Scot will start again this afternoon.
Stewart is very unlikely to score the 30 goals Charlie Wyke got last season, but if his movement and link up play can producec 15 goals for those around him with a similar number of his own the the loss of Wyke to today’s opponents will have been worth it.