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Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Who’ll line up for the lads this afternoon at Charlton?

Last weekend’s game produced the best performance we’ve seen from Alex Neil’s Sunderland – so will he make changes this afternoon?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

If last weekend’s 2pm team announcement raised eyebrows, it was nothing compared to the reaction at 5pm (or was it 5.08pm, allowing for the ridiculous amount of injury time?) when the final whistle blew at Wigan.

It looked a defensive team selection, and in some respects it was – but it worked away from home, where we’ve been weak all season, and for that reason, I think, barring injury, we’ll be unchanged this afternoon.


Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

I’ve been a bit critical of Patterson over recent weeks, but last weekend he looked as though he’s growing into the role – he looked accomplished, commanding his box and, while he didn’t have a great deal to do against a disappointing Wigan side, what he had to do he did well.

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Patterson is growing in confidence
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Defence: Carl Winchester, Bailey Wright, Arbenit Xhemajli, Dennis Cirkin

The big surprise last week, of course, was the selection of Arby, who came in from Siberia to play a very important role in the win. He looked aggressive, solid and comfortable with the ball at his feet too, and deserves to keep his place this afternoon.

Alongside him, Bailey Wright was strong and Winchester stood up well to the threat of Wigan’s left flank.

On the other side, it was brilliant to see Dennis Cirkin return to form. He’s been off colour since his return from injury, but I do think he’s an excellent prospect and these dips in form are to be expected when dealing with younger players like him.

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Cirkin was back in form last weekend
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Jay Matete, Corry Evans

How good is Jay Matete?

He’s been outstanding since his arrival from Fleetwood, and showed maturity on Saturday too after his early booking.

The concern going into today’s game is that another yellow would bring a two-game ban – ruling him out of a reunion with his former club in midweek – but he doesn’t seem to be the type of character that will be affected by that.

Alongside him, Evans was steady enough last weekend – he doesn’t do enough on the ball for me, but he does solid defensive work and will likely keep his place.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1
Matete has made a very impressive start to his Sunderland career
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Attacking midfield: Lynden Gooch, Alex Pritchard, Elliot Embleton

Aside from everyone’s favourite Kosovan, the selections of Gooch and Embleton were surprises last week – and they were picks that very few agreed with at 2pm.

Fast forward three hours, though, and you could completely see the logic. They offered workrate and defensive protection, while being able to carry the ball forward, too.

With the likes of Roberts, Clarke and Dajaku waiting in the wings (so to speak) they need to offer more of a threat in the final third than they did last weekend, but I think they’ll start the game again today.

It was pleasing to see Pritchard return to the centre of the pitch last weekend – I didn’t see any logic in him playing wide – and he’ll surely line up there today.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1
Creator in chief - simply has to play centrally
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Forward: Ross Stewart

He’s back in amongst the goals now, and is – in my view - the best forward in the division.

Create the supply line and he’ll score – simple.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Stewart showed great composure last weekend, particularly after the shenanigans of Power prior to the first pen
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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