Sunderland head into their League One clash against MK Dons this afternoon on a high after winning their opening two matches of the campaign.
Supporters are typically full of optimism heading into a new season and so far Sunderland are living up to expectations following wins over Wigan and Port Vale. The Black Cats beat the Latics 2-1 in League One on the opening day of the season and then defeated Port Vale by the same score to progress through to the next round of the Carabao Cup earlier this week.
They will be hoping to maintain their 100% record as they travel to Stadium MK and it will be intriguing to see how Lee Johnson approaches the game, and whether he decides to change up his team after playing two games in the space of five days leading up to this match.
What changes should Johnson make? Here is our predicted XI for the game…
We are tipping Johnson to make eight changes to his team from this week’s win over Port Vale to freshen up his side against MK Dons.
Starting off between the sticks, we are predicting that Anthony Patterson is handed the goalkeeping duties for this match ahead of Lee Burge. Johnson alternated between them in the first two matches, which potentially indicates that he is still torn between them for the number one position.
Against Wigan, Burge made two saves and conceded one goal as he recorded a WhoScored rating of 6.37 for his performance. The £2k-per-week ‘keeper also made two high claims to retrieve the ball from crosses. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Patterson was handed an impressive WhoScored rating of 7.21 against Port Vale in the Carabao Cup. He won three aerial duels to claim the ball under pressure, whilst also making three saves and completing two high claims.
This suggests that he had the much better game out of the pair and therefore deserves to be named as the number one for the game against MK Dons, as he has performed to a higher level this season on the limited evidence available.
Ahead of this game, we urged Johnson to unleash Dennis Cirkin for his debut following his move to the club from Tottenham. The left-back has arrived on Wearside as a permanent transfer and is now the club’s only recognised left-back option, with young midfielder Dan Neil having played out of position in defence of late.
With Cirkin now in the building and available for selection, we are predicting that the gaffer will bring him into the starting XI. Not only is he an exciting young talent who could surprise people and make an impact, but it also allows Johnson to stop using Neil out of position, as the 19-year-old struggled against Wigan, when he earned a lowly WhoScored rating of 6.40.
In terms of the rest of the changes, we are backing Callum Doyle, Corry Evans, Carl Winchester, Aiden McGeady, Elliot Embleton and Ross Stewart all to return to the side after they started and impressed against Wigan on the opening day of the League One season, following their rests against Port Vale. They should now be fit and ready to fire on all cylinders this weekend, as none of the other players who came in against Port Vale did enough in our view to displace them.