Lee Johnson’s Sunderland have enjoyed a sensational start to the 2021/22 campaign, with four wins out of five in all competitions.
The Black Cats have beaten Wigan, MK Dons and Wimbledon in League One, losing only to Burton Albion, and also defeated Port Vale in the League Cup to show that they mean business this season.
They beat AFC Wimbledon 1-0 on Saturday thanks to a deflected goal from Carl Winchester and they now travel to face Championship outfit Blackpool in the second round of the Carabao Cup tonight.
How will Johnson switch up his team for the visit to Bloomfield Road? Here is our predicted XI…
We are predicting that he will make seven changes to the team which beat AFC Wimbledon, with Niall Huggins, Frederik Alves, Bailey Wright, Dennis Cirkin, Josh Hawkes, Nathan Broadhead and Aiden O’Brien all coming in.
Lee Burge suffered an injury against Wimbledon in the warm-up, so we believe that Anthony Patterson will line up in goal for the second match in succession to allow the first-choice stopper to return to full fitness before coming back in.
In defence, we are predicting wholesale changes which will also impact the midfield. Summer signings Niall Huggins and Dennis Cirkin could come in to fill the full-back positions, allowing Dan Neil and Carl Winchester to return to their more favoured central midfield spots.
We published an article explaining why Huggins deserves his chance, but it also means that £4k-per-week beast Luke O’Nien could be axed from the side. He has been struggling with a shoulder injury, and bringing Huggins and Cirkin into the team means that Johnson can drop O’Nien and move Winchester and Neil into midfield to take his place.
For the centre-backs, it is a simple case of rotation. Tom Flanagan and Callum Doyle have started all four League One matches. Frederick Alves and Bailey Wright can be given the chance to start and show what they are capable of producing as a pair, whilst giving the first-choice partnership a rest.
We are predicting that Johnson will start Josh Hawkes on the left of the attack. He scored an excellent goal against Port Vale in the first round and deserves to be given another opportunity to impress. The 22-year-old was given a SofaScore rating of 7.0 for that match and was provided with the assist by Alex Pritchard, who we are also predicting to start to get more minutes under his belt.
Aiden O’Brien also scored against Port Vale and he should come in for Ross Stewart to give the centre-forward a rest ahead of a return to League One action next weekend.
The final change we are predicting is Nathan Broadhead to make his full debut in place of Lynden Gooch. With the 23-year-old having recently signed on loan from Everton, this is the ideal situation for Johnson to throw him in and see what he can do.