Sunderland suffered a disappointing loss to Leicester U21s in midweek, but with their first-team players back and playing with a bit more freedom, they should return to winning ways on Sunday.
Gillingham are the visitors, and since it is a cup game there will be less pressure on the players, from the fans at least, and that could allow some to play their best stuff.
Phil Parkinson, like Jack Ross, has failed to establish consistency from his players, but the Black Cats’ home form has been mostly good since his appointment, with two wins from three at the Stadium of Light.
One victory was the 5-0 thumping of Tranmere, and Parkinson may be able to get a similar level of performance out of his players if he alters his system a little.
Like his predecessor, he has operated with a 4-2-3-1 formation since coming in, and that has led to little improvement in the attack, with one goal in three league games excluding the visit of Tranmere.
Sunderland have the players to make a success of 4-4-2, and it would likely bring the best out of Will Grigg, who could be massive in Sunderland’s success if they can get him firing.
It could also allow them to go back to basics, something Sol Campbell advised earlier this week, and with that in mind here is how they should line-up against the Gills – with the likes of Alim Ozturk, Tom Flanagan, Laurens De Bock and Marc McNulty dropping out.
Only three of the 11 started in midweek, and with Benji Kiompioka, Grant Leadbitter, Dylan McGeouch and Duncan Watmore missing out there should be a revamp to the midfield, with a chance for Luke O’Nien to build on the positive performances he showed throughout October.
That led him to be named Sunderland’s Player of the Month and if he can add a bit more quality in terms of his key passing and crossing, then Parkinson’s side could start to improve on the goal front.
The biggest factor which will influence that is partnering Grigg with Chris Maguire. The latter has played well this season with five goals scored but in a role behind the striker, which means that Grigg can often be left isolated.
That is what will get him scoring and the Black Cats winning, with a bit of consistency that they desperately need.