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Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Cheltenham Town tonight?

With a couple of injury doubts from the weekend, will Lee Johnson shuffle his pack tonight? We have a go at guessing what the starting XI will be – what do you reckon?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Despite coming under a lot of pressure in the second half against Bolton, Sunderland managed to get over the line with a strong display of defending - even if our work in possession left a lot to be desired. With lower-placed opposition at the Stadium of Light tonight, another win should be a formality.

Jordan Willis, Arbenit Xhemajli, and Denver Hume all remain unavailable due to injury, although Denver Hume’s appearance for the under 23s last night indicates his return isn’t a million miles away. Added to these longer-term absentees, Callum Doyle and Dennis Cirkin both went off on Saturday afternoon and with such a short turnaround between league games, it's doubtful that either will start tonight.

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

GK: Thorben Hoffmann

Fresh off the back of being named in the League One team of the week, Thorben Hoffmann is continuing to improve every time he makes an appearance at his new club - and it’s becoming clear to see why he was brought in to start ahead of Burge and Patterson.

With a strong performance and a clean sheet on Saturday, Hoffmann will be looking for a repeat tonight.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RB: Winchester CB: Flanagan CB: Wright LB: Huggins

With a couple of injuries suffered at the weekend, Lee Johnson could be forced to shuffle his defensive pack despite coming off the back of a clean sheet.

Carl Winchester and Tom Flanagan were both excellent on Saturday, and will rightly retain their spots in the back four, but Dennis Cirkin - who was also brilliant at the weekend - is likely to be replaced by young fullback Niall Huggins, who came off the bench against Bolton. Huggins struggled somewhat in his short cameo, so hopefully, he will find it easier to influence the game in a positive manner when on the pitch from the start.

Callum Doyle, who went off with a back injury, is likely to find his place taken by Bailey Wright, as was the case at the weekend.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

CM: Evans CM: O’Nien

Despite the good team performance in the first half of Saturday’s game, Sunderland’s midfield of Luke O’Nien and Dan Neil was relatively quiet throughout the game as they were tasked with sitting a little deeper to cover for the attacking runs of Cirkin and Winchester.

It wouldn’t be a major surprise if Lee Johnson chose to keep his midfield the same, but I think Corry Evans could come in for Dan Neil, who has struggled to impact the last couple of matches. A game or two on the sidelines could let Neil come back stronger.

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RM: Dajaku AM: Embleton LM: McGeady

With Lynden Gooch ruled out for the game at the weekend, Lee Johnson chose to play “three number tens” against Bolton, as the two full-backs were tasked with providing penetrating runs behind the opposition defence.

With Cirkin likely to be out, I think Leon Dajaku could be given his first start after looking bright, if wasteful, in his weekend cameo.

With McGeady and Embleton playing every game so far this season, Alex Pritchard is the man most likely to miss out. However, with Cheltenham offering less of an attacking threat than Bolton, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dan Neil or Luke O’Nien miss out with Embleton employed in a deeper role to get more attackers onto the pitch.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

ST: Stewart

As I seem to write every week, Ross Stewart has one of the most secure positions in the Sunderland side at the moment, and coming off the back of a quiet game last time out it would be just the ticket if the Loch Ness Drogba got on the scoresheet tonight.

Nathan Broadhead offers genuine competition for Stewart’s place in the side, but if early season performances are to continue, the Everton loanee will remain a back up option.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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