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Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Options galore for LJ today... who’ll line up for the lads against Bolton?

Will our new signings come straight into the team?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

With new signings Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke available, as well as others coming back from injury and illness, Lee Johnson has an embarrassment of riches – when compared to a few weeks ago at least.

It’ll be intriguing to see whether he plunges Roberts or Clarke straight into the starting XI – Johnson is sometimes hesitant to put new signings straight in however reaped the rewards last week with Danny Batth’s immediate inclusion.

Last week’s display wasn’t the most cohesive, but I think that was more to do with our ploughed field of a pitch – the shape was good and and mentality right, so I reckon we could go into the game today unchanged.

Goalkeeper: Thorben Hoffmann

A fixture now in goal – if he’s fit, he plays. One of the big benefits of gaining promotion this season is Hoffmann will stay at the club – I think he’s got the potential to be a top flight keeper in the future.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One
Loads of potential
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Defence: Lynden Gooch, Tom Flanagan, Danny Batth, Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin

Gooch has his detractors, and with the raft of wide players we’ve signed I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if he left the club sooner rather than later, however he’s offering decent cover at full back / wing back – and with Denver Hume’s departure to Portsmouth this week that’s going to be important. Personally, I’d prefer to see Carl Winchester there, but I think Johnson likes Gooch’s energy. Tom Flanagan was a bit ropey again last week and if it wasn’t for Bailey Wright’s injury he would likely find himself on the bench. Completing the defence will be Batth, Doyle and Cirkin, who were all excellent against Portsmouth.

Sunderland AFC v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
Cirkin has been impressive this season
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Corry Evans, Dan Neil

Would you rest Dan Neil? Maybe. He’s played a lot of games this season, his first as a regular starter, and would probably benefit from a rest. However, I think he’ll keep his place this week, alongside skipper Corry Evans – another who had an impressive game last week. He does a lot of impressive work defensively, and I think Neil’s probably suited to playing alongside the Northern Ireland international.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One
Will Dan Neil start, or will LJ give him a rest?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attacking midfield: Leon Dajaku, Elliot Embleton

Alex Pritchard sat out last week’s game and although Lee Johnson said yesterday Pritchard was fit again I suspect he’ll have to settle for a place on the bench as he’s nursed back. Dajaku and Embleton impressed last week – I really like Embleton as a technical footballer, and I think we need to get him on the ball a bit more. Playing with two behind Stewart rather than the three we’ve done previously may have created more space for Embleton to play in, and it was nice to see him get onto the scoresheet, too. Dajaku was a constant threat, and pressed well last week, and he’d be very unlucky not to retain his place. However with Clarke and Roberts breathing down his neck, he needs to keep up that level of performance.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One
Embleton celebrates the only goal of the game
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Striker: Ross Stewart

What can you say? If he’s fit, he plays, and usually scores. A class act who’s getting better and better.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One
Stewart is attracting the attention of clubs higher up the leagues
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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