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Starting XI: Will newcomer Max Thompson come into the reckoning tonight?

The ‘first team’ produced a mixed bag at Accrington on Saturday, so who’ll line up tonight against Hartlepool?

Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

Saturday’s game had some positives and negatives. We played well in spells, poorly in others, created chances, didn’t take them, and ultimately shot ourselves in the foot.

If this game was more than 48 hours after Accrington, I think we’d maybe see a few more players who’d played on Saturday given another 45 minutes, but it’s not.

Here’s how the minutes are ranking up in pre-season – and it underlines the point that we’re unlikely to see many players who started on Saturday line up tonight.

I think we’ll see a much-changed team tonight – similar to the one put out at Bradford. Carl Winchester missed out on Saturday through illness while Leon Dajaku didn’t play due to a minor strain, but both could be available today.

There’s a real point to prove for a few players, however. At present, I’d say there are three or four first-team slots up for grabs for the opening game versus Coventry. The right back is far from certain, as is centre back alongside Ballard. The other position that’s undecided I reckon is centre midfield alongside Evans, and possibly left wing. So it’ll be interesting to see who starts tonight in those positions especially.


Goalkeeper: Adam Richardson

There’s surely no way Patterson will be risked tonight. Jacob Carney played at Bradford but missed out on the bench at Accrington due to injury. Youngster Adam Richardson is our only other keeper, so I imagine he’ll start.

Sunderland v AS Roma - Pre-Season Friendly
Patterson looks set to start the season as number 1
Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Defence: Trai Hume, Carl Winchester, Danny Baath, Aji Alese

Trai Hume and Danny Batth in particular head into tonight’s game knowing that a good display will give them a really good chance of starting against Coventry. New signing Alese may be forced into action at left back – at present he’s the natural replacement for Cirkin, while Carl Winchester might get a run out at centre half too.

Sunderland v AS Roma: Pre-Season Friendly
A good display from Batth could see him in the team at the weekend.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Midfield: Jay Matete, Luke O’Nien

I think Corry Evans and Dan Neil will be our starting centre midfield pairing, but Luke O’Nien and Jay Matete will also be staking their claim for a starting position. A good display tonight could see them creating a dilemma for Alex Neil.

Sunderland v AS Roma: Pre-Season Friendly
Will O’Nien have to settle for a place on the bench next week?
Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Attackers: Jack Diamond, Elliot Embleton, Leon Dajaku

Our front four picks itself for the first game, I reckon – Roberts, Pritchard, Clarke and Stewart. Jack Diamond, Elliot Embleton and Leon Dajaku, if the latter is fit, should get a game tonight – but I think the odds are against any of those three starting against Coventry.

Sunderland v AS Roma - Pre-Season Friendly
Dajaku has been given a decent opportunity this pre-season
Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Striker: Max Thompson

It’s pretty desperate up front, and Ross Stewart clearly won’t start today. Max Thompson from Burnley has apparently been signed for the under 21s, but has good pedigree, has played in the top flight already and won’t be far off first-team contention. We don’t really have a great number of options here – the alternative is to either give Dajaku or Diamond another crack through the middle or chuck O’Nien up there. Neither is as appealing to me as giving Thompson a run out. But will Alex Neil agree?

Burnley FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Max Thompson arrived from Burnley last week, and could come into first team contention.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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