Fit-again Adam Johnson is in line for an opportunity against former club Manchester City tonight, as Dick Advocaat looks for a better balance between attack and defence.
Advocaat will opt against making wholesale changes for the Capital One Cup third round clash against the Premier League leaders, yet one player who could be given an opportunity is Johnson.
We had some ideas about our strongest team, but let’s wait and see how it comes in the next few weeksDick Advocaat
The winger returned to action as a substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday after a month out with a dislocated shoulder and is in contention to occupy one of the two wide roles in Advocaat’s front three tonight.
After the 2-0 loss at Dean Court, Advocaat pondered whether his line-up was too attack-minded, with Fabio Borini the only member of the front four who will naturally track back and lend a helping hand defensively.
Johnson would offer more protection, with Advocaat admitting he is still looking for the final couple of components in his strongest starting XI.
Advocaat told the Echo: “If I play with three strikers then one of them has to be a midfielder, if you are playing with a man behind them.
“That’s what I did at Rangers.
“Johnson is in the squad.
“We had some ideas about our strongest team, but let’s wait and see how it comes in the next few weeks.
“We still have to find out what the best XI is.
“I know eight or nine, but you can only find out the right balance during the games.”
John O’Shea, who missed Saturday’s game through illness, will take the place of the suspended Younes Kaboul, while DeAndre Yedlin will replace the rested Billy Jones to make his Sunderland debut.
But that is likely to be the extent of Advocaat’s changes.
Duncan Watmore is NOT in the squad, despite his hat-trick for the Under-21s on Sunday, while Advocaat says midfield pair Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson have “had their chance”.
And after the majority of Sunderland’s summer signings had minimal pre-season action, Advocaat remains keen to continue getting them up to speed with more game-time.
“Now they are getting used to the pace and we can see that on the stats,” added Advocaat.
“But you have to take into consideration the way we started pre-season in July until the transfer window ended a month ago.
“That’s not the best way to prepare.”