Sunderland will be eyeing a first League One win of the season when they travel to the Kassam Stadium to take on Oxford United on Saturday.
An opening day 1-1 draw to Bristol Rovers will not have been how Phil Parkinson was hoping to start the 2020/21 campaign, with the Black Cats hoping to secure a return to the Championship at the third time of asking.
Oxford will harbour similar hopes after their promotion push was ended in the play-offs last term, so this looks like it will be an early test for Sunderland.
With that in mind, here’s the starting XI that Parkinson should name against the U’s…
With Jon McLaughlin gone, Lee Burge was entrusted with the number one jersey for the League One opener against Rovers and made a shaky start. He conceded a rash penalty inside the first few minutes, meaning that Chris Maguire’s goal was only enough to earn the Black Cats a point.
Parkinson should show faith in the 27-year-old for this one despite the fact that Remi Matthews, who is proven at this level, is waiting in the wings.
Other than the early penalty, it was a solid performance from the Black Cats back three last weekend and it would be a surprise not to see Jordan Willis, Bailey Wright, and Tom Flanagan reprise their roles.
That trio look to face a far tougher test against Karl Robinson’s side on Saturday, with only Peterborough United outscoring Oxford in League One last term.
There is unlikely to be any adjustments in terms at wing-back either as Denver Hume and Luke O’Nien were tireless in their work against Rovers – combining for six tackles, two interceptions, 15 crosses, and five key passes.
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George Dobson is unavailable after his lunge meant he saw red in the closing stages of the draw with Rovers but it has been confirmed that both Josh Scowen and Grant Leadbitter are available to Parkinson.
The energy of Scowen could prove very useful against an Oxford side that will look to play with a high tempo. The 27-year-old will likely be the man that the Sunderland boss chooses to partner Max Power in central midfield.
Elliot Embleton could have been a good option but the Sunderland boss has revealed he will need a run in the U23s to get match fit before he is picked.
Things haven’t gone Will Grigg’s way since arriving at the Stadium of Light but he seems to be Parkinson’s first-choice number nine after getting the nod against Rovers.
Chris Maguire looks set to be a key man in the final third once again for the Black Cats this season and will surely reprise his role on the flanks alongside Aiden O’Brien, who still looks to be settling in at Sunderland.