Sunderland vs Bristol Rovers predicted team as Black Cats look to build on big win

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Phil Parkinson has some decisions to make as he picks his starting XI to take on the Gas in their League One opener

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Who would be Will Grigg? Not much has gone right for the Sunderland striker since he arrived from Wigan in a £3m deal in January 2019.

But after a pre-season which hinted that he had found some improved form, the Northern Ireland international earned a place in the starting XI for the Black Cats’ first game of the season.

It went downhill from there – but very little of his own doing. Not only did he see TWO goals chalked off, one for a marginal offside, the other for a foul on the keeper which was generous to say the least, but it was his penalty miss in the shoot-out which saw the Black Cats knocked out.

Not only that, but he then had to sit and watch his rivals for a starting role rattle in eight goals against Aston Villa Under-21s on Tuesday night.

Charlie Wyke, left out against Hull, bagged two in the rout, with new signing Danny Graham coming off the bench to grab a second-debut goal and Aiden O’Brien opened his account in a red-and-white shirt.

All of which gives manager Phil Parkinson some thinking to do ahead of the League One opener against Bristol Rovers this weekend.

It’s not that Grigg did anything wrong against Hull, he actually looked quite sharp, but it’s a brave man who tells Wyke that his midweek brace isn’t enough to keep him in the side, even if it was ‘only’ Aston Villa U21s.

A front three with a stronger ‘target’ man had been Parkinson’s preferred formation last season and, while Wyke didn’t necessarily get the goals a No 9 might want, he did play an important role in creating the space for the likes of Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire to prosper.

He moved away from that somewhat against Hull, with O’Brien and Grigg supported by Maguire in a more central role, but following Wyke’s double – and the fact Graham can come off the bench as a like-for-like replacement – he could be tempted to return to the more tried and tested this weekend.

Josh Scowen was given just his second start in a Sunderland shirt in midweek, and took the opportunity with both hands. His chances have been limited since his arrival from QPR, but he was massively impressive in midweek, having a hand in three goals and scoring himself.

With Max Power recently confirmed as team captain, it would suggest George Dobson’s place could be under threat, with Scowen another who could feel hard-done-by to be back on the bench.

It a ‘problem’ Parkinson is all too aware of, saying on Tuesday night: « There’s a lot of competition for the starting line-up and for the bench. I was pleased for Charlie because when you are left out of the team [against Hull], you have to respond and he did that. He scored a couple of goals against Carlisle in pre-season and now he has scored another couple on Tuesday.

« You want players to do their talking on the pitch and he has done that. He’s had a very good pre-season, he has looked sharp, and it is an interesting selection dilemma – and a good one to have.

« Josh Scowen is another. He has grown into the club, it was difficult for him last season because when he first came in the lads were doing so well and he didn’t get many chances.

« But he is a good player, he’s feisty, he can tackle, but he can also handle the ball and play.

« He’s also got the ability to break forward at the right time, as he has shown. »

At the back, Arbenit Xhemajli made his debut in defence and, while he was largely untested, looked at home in the backline, giving Parkinson another potential headache.

Another debutant, Remi Matthews, had little chance against Indiana Vassilev’s penalty, but was otherwise largely untroubled, as the battle for the No 1 spot intensifies.

Use our team selector tool above to pick your Black Cats XI for the squad available.

We’ll then collate the most popular side. Don’t forget to share your team with us on twitter @ChronicleSAFC.


SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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