Sunderland welcome Bradford City in a Football League Trophy dead rubber this evening.
The Black Cats will top the group with a win but apart from that nothing can come of the game. With the Wearside club preparing to lose players to international duty it is likely that some U23 players and largely men from the fringes will make up their starting XI.
Lee Johnson revealed what is crossing his mind as the Black Cats look to end a run of four straight defeats when he spoke to ChronicleLive.
He said: “We’ll use the Bradford game to top up minutes for those who need it.
“We want to build some momentum and win, and then we’ll prepare as best we can with the players who are here, knowing most of the international lads won’t be back until the day before the Ipswich game.”
The performance in the club’s 1-0 loss to Mansfield Town in the FA Cup first round on Saturday was very concerning. It was not a full strength side, nor was the competition of high priority this season, but the lack of goalscoring opportunities created against a lowly League Two team has further fueled Johnson’s doubters.
The Bantams test should provide the perfect opportunity to build some much needed confidence going into the international break.
Similarly to the Stags affair, this is a bit of a lose-lose situation for Johnson, if Sunderland do not thrash Bradford then the manager does not come out with any credit. Johnson is aware of this and therefore is playing down the fixture’s significance in the media and likely will field a very experimental line-up.
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The Black Cats won the Football League Trophy last season to end their Wembley hoodoo however the supporters would probably happily sacrifice the competition for a return to the automatic promotion race in League One. A fifth consecutive season in the third tier does not even bear thinking about from a Sunderland point of view, the league is the only priority.