Mannone handed Sunderland debut

Vito Mannone

Vito Mannone

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VITO MANNONE will be handed his Sunderland debut tonight as Paolo Di Canio looks to preserve the competition between his two goalkeepers.

Summer signing Mannone has been forced to play second fiddle to Keiren Westwood for Sunderland’s opening two games of the season after head coach Di Canio opted to make the Republic of Ireland international his first-choice stopper.

But Di Canio believes the best way for Westwood to remain in form is to have Mannone breathing down his neck and he will give the £2million former Arsenal stopper a chance in tonight’s Capital One Cup second round visit of MK Dons.

Di Canio told the Echo: “This is one position where I can try to change things because there is competition there.

“At the moment, it is 60-40 because Westie has done very well, but it is not 100-0 like if you have an established number one and a kid.

“It is good to have competition. When one player is ahead 60-40, it means Westie knows he has to keep playing as he has to stay in the team.

“But Vito is a very good goalie and tonight he will have his chance.”

Mannone is unlikely to be among a raft of changes tonight though, with Di Canio insisting the Capital One Cup holds as much importance for him as the Premier League.

Midfielder Cabral, surprisingly dropped for last weekend’s trip to Southampton, could return, while there may also be Sunderland debuts for summer signings David Moberg Karlsson, El-Hadji Ba and Charis Mavrias.

But Di Canio has warned that the new boys won’t be introduced for the sake of it, as he attempts to steer Sunderland successfully into the third round.

“If we play with the new players to make the fans happy and we lose, people will ask why I did not play the strongest team!” he added.

“So I’m not here to make the fans happy in that way – I’m here to win, and that will make the fans happy.

“We can change the team a bit but we can’t make too many changes because I want to make sure that people know that we cannot underestimate this game.

“I don’t want to change six or seven players and at this stage of the season we shouldn’t have to. If players are tired now, there is a problem!

“I don’t know the number, it oculd be four.

“We know that Cabral last week played and this week didn’t play, but he’s one of a number who can play regular football.

“We will check the physical condition of the players and anyone who is not 100 per cent fit will not be risked.

“But I will pick a team to win this game because for me the cups are as important as the league.