NEW signing Marcos Alonso is in line for his Sunderland debut this weekend as Gus Poyet looks to juggle his squad in a crowded fixture list.
The head coach has signalled his desire to win both of Sunderland’s up-and-coming cup ties and will send out teams he feels can do the club justice in both the FA Cup third round clash against Carlisle on Sunday and the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Manchester United on Tuesday.
But changes in the team look to be inevitable with so many games coming thick and fast.
And with the game against League One opposition this weekend offering Poyet greatest scope for experimentation, on-loan Fiorentina left-back Alonso stands by to start.
The 23-year-old, who has tasted life in the Premier League previously with Bolton Wanderers, was unavailable for Sunderland’s game against Aston Villa on New Year’s Day.
But he is eligible for this weekend’s game and should he play, it will be the second time in consecutive seasons he has appeared in an FA Cup tie involving the Black Cats.
He starred as Bolton beat Sunderland in the FA Cup third round a year ago – the Spaniard playing in both the 2-2 draw at the Reebok and the replay, which Bolton won 2-0 at the Stadium of Light.
The defender said: “The stadium is great and also the fans – when we played here last year the atmosphere was incredible.”
Should Alonso play, he is likely to be one of a number of changes on a team-sheet which will eagerly anticipated by the club’s fringe players.
Cabral and El-Hadji Ba have been on the bench in recent games, though neither have got any first-team minutes under their belt.
And another summer signing, Swedish Under-19 winger David Moberg Karlsson will also hope for an opportunity.
Poyet will face a decision over whether to retain the erratic central defensive partnership of Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge, or whether to restore Wes Brown to the side after the completion of his three-game ban.
Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner have been in and out of Sunderland’s side in recent weeks and will be hoping to have the opportunity to start.
And Ji Dong-won, who did not make a single Gus Poyet squad prior to the New Year’s Day game against Aston Villa, will be hoping to make it two starts in a row this weekend.