Lee Johnson explains how he'll approach his Sunderland selection on Sunday and the defenders in contention
Lee Johnson says he is likely to use all of his substitutions on Sunday as he manages his squad ahead of the play-off campaign.
The Black Cats welcome already-relegated Northampton Town for the final game of the regular league season looking to secure a potential third-placed finish.
Johnson will go for three points, which will strengthen his team's chances of landing a second leg in front of fans at the Stadium of Light later this month.
Nevertheless, he is conscious that particularly in defensive areas, he needs to carefully manage the workload of a number of players.
Clubs voted to extend the number of substitutions a manager can make at the start of the season and Johnson is likely to take advantage of that this weekend.
"I want us to win the game and perform well," Johnson said.
"I want to tick a few along in terms of their minutes. I might use my five substitutions for this one, based on what's required for us rather than the actual moment in the game.
"We're now in a position of course where we need to peak for a play-off semi final.
"In an ideal world, we’ll secure the home game for the second leg. I’m genuinely not that worried about who we play because if you want to be successful, you’ll have to beat the best teams anyway.
"We’ll have to bring our best in that moment and this is almost the warm up for that, to bring our best.
"I’m excited about it.”
Johnson expects both Charlie Wyke and Aiden McGeady to be involved in some capacity as they return from injuries that forced them to sit out the 3-1 win over Plymouth Argyle last weekend.
Neither are likely to play 90 minutes, while Johnson also has a number of decisions to make in defence.
Tom Flanagan is hoping to give him another option for the play-off campaign, while he also has two left backs in need of minutes.
Southampton loanee Jake Vokins could feature for the first time since the 2-0 win over Accrington Stanley in March. The left-back tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after but stepped up his recovery this week by playing 77 minutes in Sunderland U23's draw away at Stoke City on Monday night.
Also set to be involved is Conor McLaughlin, who made an unexpectedly swift return from a hernia operation at Home Park. McLaughlin completed 45 minutes before being withdrawn in a pre-planned substitution.
He is set to take the next step in his comeback on Sunday but is another unlikely to complete 90 minutes.
"I won't be taking any untoward risk but there is a risk/reward factor for a few in terms of their minutes," Johnson said.
"Under consideration is Conor McLaughlin, getting him some more minutes.
"There's Tom Flanagan, who has now had about a week to ten days training, and who is probably about 50/50 for the game on Sunday."Jake Vokins is one under consideration, and Callum McFadzean hasn't played for a while.
"There are definitely a few mini-dilemmas in there, in a positive way, that we have to consider to make sure we're shaped up nicely for the semi-finals."