SUMMER SIGNINGS Jordi Gomez, Costel Pantilimon and Billy Jones are all expected to make their first Sunderland starts in tonight’s Capital One Cup clash at Birmingham City.
But Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has vowed to limit his tinkering after seeing the value of the competition in last season’s march to the final.
Midfielder Gomez has appeared in both of Sunderland’s two opening outings from the bench, while fellow Bosman arrivals Pantilimon and fit-again Jones are yet to make their Black Cats bows.
All will be handed an opportunity at St Andrews’s, with midfielder Liam Bridcutt also pencilled in to be included, probably at the expense of Lee Cattermole.
Poyet realises his fringe players need to feature against Championship outfit Birmingham, with Valentin Roberge, Jozy Altidore and Charis Mavrias all potentially involved too.
But the head coach is mindful of fielding a strong enough side for Sunderland to progress after the Black Cats’ run to Wembley last season produced a dramatic upturn in their Premier League fortunes.
“Last year, it was a mix of things in the beginning - nice draws at home, I used one game in particular to try something different against Southampton,” said Poyet.
“Then we beat Chelsea in extra-time and the next thing we knew, we were in the finals.
“When you get there, you take your chances.
“I can promise you there won’t be too many changes. There will be a few.
“There are players who need to play - Jordi Gomez deserves to play, I need to play Pantilimon to keep the competition between the goalkeepers as well.
“Billy Jones is back from injury and needs to play.
“There will be a few changes, but I’m not going to take it lightly or make 11 changes or change the system.
“The cup is a good thing. They’re like individual finals and you need to win all the time to get through.
“It brings a good feeling to the team.
“It’s a small celebration that you have if you get through.”
After successive draws in Sunderland’s opening two games, Poyet is also keen to register a first win of the campaign.
The Uruguayan believes smooth progress to the third round would offer a timely confidence boost ahead of Saturday’s trip to a newly-promoted QPR side who are yet to register a point.
“I want to get back to winning ways, so we can get that feeling and go into Saturday with a winning mentality,” he added.
“It’s not the same kind of draw this year because last season we were at home practically all the time.
“It’s going to be tough and a great challenge for Birmingham as well.”