After a disappointing collapse in the last ten minutes at Fleetwood last Saturday, it was important for Lee Johnson’s side to bounce back with a win in midweek in order to rebuild some momentum going into today’s game. The excellent performance in Greater Manchester has given the Sunderland gaffer food for thought with his team selection, so it will be interesting to see if any of Tuesday’s cup starters retain their place for this afternoon’s visit of Bolton Wanderers.
Only Jordan Willis, Arbenit Xhemajli, and Denver Hume will be unavailable due to injury, with Tom Flanagan likely to return after he missed out with suspension at Fleetwood last weekend.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
GK: Thorben Hoffmann
As should be the case in a successful and injury-free side, the position of first-choice goalkeeper is not up for debate in this Sunderland side.
Thorben Hoffmann impressed last weekend despite conceding two at Fleetwood, and with a bit more protection from his defence he should be able to keep Bolton out this afternoon.
RB: Winchester CB: Flanagan CB: Doyle LB: Cirkin
After Bailey Wright looked to be at fault for both of Fleetwood’s goals last weekend, there’s little doubt that Tom Flanagan will resume his partnership with Callum Doyle that started the season so well.
Genuine competition has emerged at right-back after Niall Huggin’s impressive display during midweek, but with Carl Winchester continuing to perform well at full-back it's likely that the former Leeds man is forced to wait a little longer for his first league start in Red and White.
On the left, Denver Hume’s continued absence through injury and a lack of match fitness means that Dennis Cirkin is the only player fit and available for this position, but he has been improving game by game and looks to be making life difficult for Hume to return to the starting line up once he is ready for match action.
CM: Evans CM: O’Nien
With Sunderland putting in a dominant display during midweek, a performance that Lee Johnson will be looking to match this afternoon, it would be of no surprise to see Corry Evans and Luke O’Nien continue in the middle of the park.
Dan Neil is undoubtedly a talented footballer, but his withdrawal last weekend, combined with Evans’ start on Tuesday, means he could drop to the bench as Sunderland look to get back on top spot.
RM: Gooch AM: Embleton LM: McGeady
Although the front four that started against Wigan put in good performances in the cup game, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Gooch, Embleton and McGeady all keep their place in the starting lineup for today’s game.
I’ve predicted a change-up in attacking midfield a few times without success, so it seems as though the knowledge these three have of how Sunderland’s system works off the ball is keeping them at the forefront of Lee Johnson’s plans at least for a little longer.
Much like the goalkeeper position, Sunderland’s striker is not up for debate at the moment with Ross Stewart arguably the most important attacking on our books.
Nathan Broadhead was impressive in midweek, but he is competing with Gooch and McGeady for a starting place in the league rather than the big Scottish striker who will probably start all games when fit and not suspended. Today will be no different.