Who will start as Sunderland strive for Wembley? Molly's prediction for tonight's semi final

In less than 24 hours we will all be sat in front of the TV waiting patiently to discover whether we will be heading down to Wembley at the end of the month. Ahead of today's semi-final, I made some predictions on how a Tuesday night in Bristol would go for the lads.

by Molly_Burke Tuesday, 05 March 2019 10:17 AM Comments

If you went to Wembley for the 2014 League Cup final then you will understand exactly why I am so keen for us to get there once more. After many depressing years following Sunderland, it is only right that we enjoy another big day out in the capital, and it is only 90 minutes against Bristol Rovers that stands between us and the final.

Some fans are very much against the Checkatrade Trophy and everything it stands for, but when you are a team like us and silverware is a rarity, you can't possibly let an opportunity to get your hands on the Cup pass you by. If we are to join Portsmouth at Wembley, we can't continue to play a weakened team like we have rightfully done in other rounds. 

Starting XI

The quarter-final against Man City U21s saw us provide the likes of  Ozturk, Kimpioka and Ruiter a chance to get some minutes under their belt. Whilst our fringe players have allowed us to get to the semi-final in the first place, we can't be expected to reward them by starting them tomorrow either. I speak for myself and many other Sunderland fans when I say we need to give it all we have got tomorrow night, and to put out a weakened side would be disappointing. 

After two clean sheets in a row - one of which came against Rovers in the league fixture last weekend - I would hope for our defence of O'Nien, Dunne, Flanagan and James to retain their places, however perhaps an inclusion of Baldwin and Matthews would be welcomed, with the latter only finding himself benched due to O'Nien's superb form while the Welshman was out injured.

The midfield of Leadbitter and Cattermole has surprisingly worked very well and their partnership is likely to prove vital for the remainder of the season. Whether Jack Ross will stick with both of them for tomorrow's match I'm not sure - perhaps Power may make an appearance, with the former Wigan man arguably having something to prove after a poor couple of months. 

Honeyman and McGeady are of course definite starters, as our captain and top scorer respectively (bar Josh Maja, but we don't talk about him!), McGeady's unbelievable current form means he is untouchable at the moment, and if he is at his best he is capable of single handedly winning the game for us.

Lewis Morgan has already been very impressive lately, but I would also accept giving Gooch another opportunity following his spell on the bench. The American has struggled recently, despite having a fantastic start to the season, and I would hope he would be able to find that form once again.

Finally, whilst Will Grigg has struggled in front of goal since his arrival in January, I have still been particularly impressed with him. However, even if I hadn't been I would still be all for Grigg to start up top due to how simply terrible Wyke is. He starts and we can wave Wembley goodbye. 

Score prediction

We have already done the double over Rovers this season and whilst I am used to expecting us to bottle a game like this, I'm feeling very positive about it. Saturday's game against Plymouth was some of the best football we have played in a very long time and following our short blip we seem to be getting better and better.

Rovers may have hammered Blackpool 4-0 over the weekend, but like I previously said, I'm not convinced they will be able to prevent McGeady from doing the damage to help us reach the final. 

I'm going to go with 2-1. While I think Bristol will be on a high after their win on Saturday, I don't think they will be able to match us and Will Grigg and Aiden McGeady goals will confirm our place in the final. Easy peasy. 


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