This is the Sunderland XI our writers would pick for crunch Oxford United clash

Sunderland are looking to get their first win of the League One season at Oxford United on Saturday.
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Debate over Phil Parkinson’s options have been continuing all week, so what team would our writers pick?

Here’s their verdicts...


Phil Parkinson has a big decision to make in central midfield this weekendPhil Parkinson has a big decision to make in central midfield this weekend
Phil Parkinson has a big decision to make in central midfield this weekend

Sunderland XI (3-4-1-2): Burge; Willis, Wright, Flanagan; O'Nien, Power, Scowen, Hume; Maguire, O'Brien, Grigg

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The big talking point all week has been the identity of George Dobson's replacement in midfield.

There's little doubt that Josh Scowen has earned his opportunity, but that does cause a problem in the balance of midfield. Picking Scowen as a holding midfielder makes little sense to me, so his introduction has to mean Max Power drops a little deeper.

It's for that reason that there is a strong case for going with Grant Leadbitter, but like many, I'm keen to see what Scowen can do.

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One of the biggest dilemmas for me was trying to find a place ofr Lynden Gooch, who was excellent after coming off the bench last week and has been unlucky so far.

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For now, though, it makes sense to persist with Aiden O'Brien and Will Grigg and give them time to try and build a partnership.

Sunderland have to play to Grigg's strengths though, and last week was a regression in that sense.

I expect Arbenit Xhemajli and Danny Graham to push hard in the coming weeks, but I can't see them getting a start just yet.


Sunderland XI (3-4-1-2): Burge; Willis, Wright, Flanagan; O'Nien, Leadbitter, Power, Hume; Maguire; O'Brien, Grigg

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As Phil Parkinson has alluded to throughout the week, there wasn't a great deal wrong with the Black Cats' performance last week.

So that explains why I'm making just one change - the enforced one in the centre of park due to George Dobson's selection.

While Josh Scowen is the choice of many, I'd back Grant Leadbitter to get a start. He's looked good in pre-season and offers a cool head, and could help Sunderland to calm down and get their foot on the ball if things get too frantic (as they did against Bristol Rovers last week).

Leadbitter would also sit in and allow Max Power to join the attack, something which proved a good avenue last week.

Up top, meanwhile. Grigg deserves another chance to start.


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Sunderland XI (3-4-1-2): Burge, O'Nien, Willis, Wright, Flanagan, Hume, Power, Scowen, Maguire, O'Brien, Grigg.

After a disappointing opening day result at home to Bristol Rovers, Sunderland won't want to drop anymore points this weekend.

The 1-1 draw gave Phil Parkinson plenty of food for thought ahead of the trip to Oxford United, and he will be forced into at least one change. Mind, that change may have happened anyway.

George Dobson, who endured a frustrating afternoon against Rovers, will miss the next three games after seeing red.

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Surely Josh Scowen will come into the side, Sunderland could certainly benefit from his set piece delivery.

They also need to regain control of central midfield and Dobson may now face a long spell out the side should Scowen grasp the opportunity.

Elsewhere, Lee Burge will be given another chance while the defence picks itself at the moment.

The other big decision will be whether to persist with Will Grigg, which Parkinson surely will after a promising pre-season.

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