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Neil starts: The predicted Sunderland XI to face Gillingham this weekend



Sunderland travel to Gillingham on Saturday aiming to get their campaign back on track after they suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat against Portsmouth last time out in League One.

The Black Cats were not in action last weekend due to international call-ups. That allowed other teams around them to either close the gap on them in the table or even overtake them.

Lee Johnson’s side do now have at least one game in hand on most of the teams in and around them in the League One table. They have two matches in hand on Wycombe Wanderers who climbed up into second place thanks to their 2-0 win against Gillingham last time out.

There will be a real point to prove for Sunderland against Gillingham with them needing to show the right character in their squad to bounce back from that defeat at Portsmouth.

Since that result at Fratton Park, Sunderland have secured two wins in the Papa John’s Trophy against Lincoln City and Manchester United’s under-21s. Although their win against United in the week was with a very youthful side.

Sunderland do have some injury and fitness concerns heading into the game, but they are expected to revert back to close to a full-strength line-up against Gillingham.

With that in mind, we take a look at the starting XI Johnson could field at Gillingham…

Johnson is going to be highly likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been serving the Black Cats well so far this season in League One.

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That comes despite there being doubts over the likes of Aiden McGeady and Leon Dajaku heading into the game, while Corry Evans, Lynden Gooch, Niall Huggins and Nathan Broadhead are all likely to be out of the contest.

In goal, Ron-Thorben Hoffmann should keep his place in the side despite him shipping four goals in that defeat against Portsmouth last time out.

It would be very harsh to even consider dropping him at this point because he has already impressed in previous games and has already kept two clean sheets in five league games.

At right-back, Carl Winchester should continue to keep his place in the side and he is enjoying a fine campaign and contributing a lot for the Black Cats at both ends of the field.

While in the continued absence of Huggins, Dennis Cirkin is going to be set to remain in the team at left-back.

Johnson has a tough call to make at the heart of the Black Cats’ defence. Callum Doyle was brought on at halftime at Portsmouth to try and sure things up after both Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan enduring very difficult afternoons at Fratton Park.

Wright could drop down the bench against Gillingham as a result and Doyle could take his place back in the starting line-up alongside Flanagan.

At the base of midfield, Evans’ injury means that a chance could emerge for Daniel Neil to come back into the starting line-up after his impressive goal in the EFL Trophy win at Lincoln City. He is likely to partner Luke O’Nien in the middle of the park.

Elliot Embleton continues to be a key performer for the Black Cats in the number ten role and he should keep his place here.

There is a doubt over Dajaku after he returned from international duty with Germany’s under-20s with a slight injury, but if he is able to recover he could keep his place. While Aiden O’Brien might also get the chance to continue in the starting line-up.

Upfront, it is a simple choice for Johnson with Broadhead absent and Ross Stewart will be hoping to get back amongst the goals for Sunderland.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Neil starts: The predicted Sunderland XI to face Gillingham this weekend

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