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Sunderland v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Fleetwood Town this afternoon?

Will Lee Johnson make any more chances than necessary to the team that won last weekend? We have a go at guessing what the starting XI will be – what do you reckon?

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sunderland are flying at the moment, and today’s opponents should, on paper at least, allow our good start to the season to continue.

Also, the treatment room seems to be pretty empty at the moment, with long-term absentee Arbenit Xhemajli back in training and the unfortunate Jordan Willis the only player still suffering, although Denver Hume is also unlikely to be fit enough to make the squad.

Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.


GK: Thorben Hoffmann

After going into the first team straight away, it’s clear that Sunderland’s new ‘keeper Ron Hoffmann will be the first choice for this season and perhaps even beyond.

The German stopper looked shaky on debut, but grew into the game and made a number of good claims amongst a crowd of players during the second half. Against Simon Grayson’s Fleetwood, his handing is likely to be put to the test once again.

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

RB: Winchester CB: Wright CB: Doyle LB: Cirkin

If it wasn’t for Tom Flanagan’s suspension, it's very unlikely that we would be seeing a change in the Sunderland backline for today’s game.

However, despite the former Burton defender’s good start, a fully fit and firing Bailey Wright could take out defence to the next level if he can strike up a good partnership with Callum Doyle.

The full-backs pick themselves at the moment, thankfully due to the form of the current incumbents Carl Winchester and Dennis Cirkin, rather than a lack of other options.

Denver Hume’s return will put genuine pressure on Cirkin for his place, and if Winchester’s performance drops Niall Huggins will be given his chance to make a mark following his arrival from Leeds.

Sunderland v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

CM: Neil CM: O’Nien

Nowhere on the pitch has Sunderland’s squad changed more since last season than in midfield, where the slow and defensive combination of Power, Scowen, and Leadbitter has been rightfully left behind.

Dan Neil has been a revelation this campaign, and his goal last weekend was another piece of quality from a player who seems to have more time on the ball than anyone else on the pitch.

Combine Neil’s technical class with the energy and defensive play of Luke O’Nien, himself tidy enough on the ball, and Sunderland’s midfield duo picks itself with captain Corry Evans ready to step in only when needed.

Sunderland v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RM: Gooch AM: Embleton LM: McGeady

If Sunderland’s results start to go downhill, it's likely that attacking midfield will be the part of the pitch that sees changes - not because the three current players aren’t good enough, but due to the amount of competition for places in the forward areas of the pitch.

Dajaku and O’Brien didn’t even make the bench last weekend, and Lee Johnson has shown faith in the combination of Gooch, Embleton, and McGeady, which has been the first choice trio since the opening day. Unless one of these three suffers an injury just before kick-off, I expect them all to keep their places in the starting lineup.

Sunderland v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

ST: Stewart

The easiest position on the field to fill, Sunderland’s big center-forward is arguably the least replaceable member of the squad.

His decent amount of pace for a big man, combined with his work rate, link-up play, and decent goalscoring potential, makes Stewart one of the most underrated strikers in the football league.

If there was a prototype for the type of player Sunderland will be looking to sign more of its Stewart, a relative unknown at Ross County, to go into our starting lineup and improve the team around him.

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

If you’ve not caught our preview pod this week, tune in to hear Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley’s thoughts ahead of the clash.

Also, don’t miss the rest of our Fleetwood v Sunderland pre-match coverage:

Match preview
Interview with Fleetwood fan Knappers
Fleetwood is a test – it’s time for Sunderland to dig in
Score predictions

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