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Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: Is this the team that Alex Neil will pick when Sunderland take on Shrewsbury?

Another big game today and three points are a must. So, who will Alex Neil pick in his starting XI today?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After an excellent three points against Oxford we face a Shrewsbury team that don’t concede too many goals – so expect another tight, attritional game.

Given that, it’ll be interesting as to whether Alex Neil plays ‘the long game’ in this one or goes for it from the off. Here’s how I think we’ll line up.


Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson

Patterson made a match-winning save for us last weekend – it was one of those I was certain was in – and it was probably the difference between no points and three points.

He’ll keep his place between the sticks today.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Patterson continues to grow in stature
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Defence: Carl Winchester, Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin

I think we’ll go back to a back four today, with the experienced pairing of Bailey Wright and Danny Batth together again.

Full backs will likely be Carl Winchester and Dennis Cirkin – Cirkin’s more comfortable as a full back than playing on the left of three central defenders.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One
Better as a full back
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Midfield: Corry Evans, Jay Matete, Luke O’Nien

Jay Matete came back into the team last week and performed well, so it’s difficult to see him sitting it out today.

Corry Evans turned in another strong performance against Oxford – he’s knitting the side together well at the moment, and topped it off with a goal – and it’s clear Alex Neil sees him as integral to what he’s trying to do this season.

Luke O’Nien was left on the bench but came on to good effect last week – with question marks over Alex Pritchard’s fitness I suspect we’ll see O’Nien return to the line up today.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One
Will Matete keep his place?
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Forwards: Patrick Roberts, Ross Stewart, Elliot Embleton

Nathan Broadhead returned to the side last week, but seemed a bit hesitant to go full pelt.

While Alex Neil says he only looks at one game at a time, I suspect he may make an exception in this instance – with another game on Monday he could well be tempted to leave Broadhead on the bench today and start him against Plymouth.

Jack Clarke’s insistence on cutting inside and running into congested areas every time he gets the ball is frustrating, and I think he’ll pay the price for that.

Pritchard has question marks over his fitness, so I think we’ll see Embleton line up in the team from the start after crucial interventions from the bench in the past couple of games.

In a tight contest, Embleton’s ability to pick a pass could be crucial.

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Has Embleton earned a recall to the starting XI?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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