Sunderland predicted XI vs Middlesbrough: Not a lot of choice for Moyes in first home game

Sunderland take on Middlesbrough in their first home game of the season on Sunday and here's a look at who may start the game for the Black Cats.


On another day, Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone could have had a clean sheet in the 2-1 opening day defeat at Manchester City. Mannone was only beaten by a Sergio Aguero penalty and an unfortunate own goal by new teammate Paddy McNair at the Eitihad stadium last week.

However, despite conceding two goals and losing the game, Mannone did not have a great deal to do in a game where there were very few chances other than the three goals that went in. Therefore there would be no case for David Moyes to drop Mannone and I don't think anybody expects him to, so the Italian will keep his place in goal.


How long a week is in football, a phrase that is very applicable for how Sunderland's defence will line-up for the Wear-Tees derby this week. The centre-back partnership last week was the same from the end of last season, with Younes Kaboul alongside Lamine Kone after Moyes cleared up the talk about the latter in the City pre-match press conference.

However, a lot has changed in seven days, as at this week's presser Moyes revealed Kone has acknowledged the imminent new contract offer, but turned it down anyway and came into training on Friday ruling himself out of this match with a back injury. As for Kaboul, he requested a move to a club in the region of London for personal reasons and Sunderland gave it to him, agreeing a £3.5 million deal with Watford during the week.

Therefore Moyes is left with limited options in central defence and will likely give £8 million signing from Chelsea, Papi Djilobodji his debut. As for who partners him, it's a straight choice between two former Manchester United players, veteran John O'Shea and youngster McNair, with the other set to play in a holding midfield role. Personally I'd go with O'Shea in defence as it's his  best position right now.

Dijlobodji could start for the Black Cats tomorrow / Chronicle Live
Dijlobodji could start for the Black Cats tomorrow / Chronicle Live

Out wide it's the same forced decision for Moyes in terms of not having the depth in the squad to pick anyone else. So I'd be suprised if it wasn't Donald Love at right back and Patrick Van Aanholt at left back for a second week in a row. The performances at City were mixed from the pair with Love doing just ok considering he has barely played any top flight football.

As for Van Aanholt he gave away a silly penalty for the first goal and could have stopped the cross which led to McNair's own goal, once again putting doubts over his defensive skills.

Holding Midfielders

Another area of the pitch, which is ravaged by injuries to key players and leaves Moyes little actual choice in who he picks to play. Jan Kirchoff remains out with a hamstring injury, along with Sebastian Larsson who will not play again in 2016, meanwhile Lee Cattermole is set to be out for six weeks after having surgery to repair his double hernia.

Moyes could well stick with the pair of Jack Rodwell and O'Shea in front of the back four, who did a decent job against quality opposition last week, although I think O'Shea will play in defence because of the issues in that area. Therefore Rodwell needs a new partner and I think McNair will get the start despite a nightmare debut off the bench last week.

However, to be fair to the Northern Ireland international, there's not a great deal he could have done after Jesus Navas fizzed in cross hit him in the face so close to his own goal. Also a lot of people see McNair as a defender even though Sunderland signed him as a holding midfielder and I'd expect him to start there on Sunday.

Attacking midfield/wingers

Moving onto a position where Moyes actually has a choice as to who plays instead of injuries forcing him to pick certain players. I'd expect the formation to be a more conventional 4-2-3-1 this week after almost a straight 4-4-2 in Manchester, meaning they'll be a number 10 type role for someone.

I'd back this position in behind the striker to be filled by Wahbi Khazri, although he didn't start last week, fans will expect a more positive approach for the home opener and Khazri in the position his meant to play should fulfill this expectation.

Out wide left I'd back Adnan Januzaj to fill the void after making a good impact as a substitute last week where he was actually put on the right side. The Manchester United loanee can play on either flank though and he should slot in nicely and hopefully make an impact in a big game on Sunday.

New signing Januzaj starred last week and should do this week / Chronicle Live
New signing Januzaj starred last week and should do this week / Chronicle Live

Fabio Borini would be the easiest choice to complete this attacking trio for most people, but Moyes revealed in the press conference he was a major doubt for the match with a toe problem. Assuming he doesn't play the options on the right appear to be Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch who started last week along with Jermain Lens, although he is being linked with a reunion with Dick Advocaat at Fenerbache in Turkey.

These factors in mind I think Moyes will start Watmore on the right wing, because he has a little bit more experience than Gooch and has shown he can make an impact in this league.


Jermain Defoe was extremely important to Sunderland anyway, but now with issues surrounding other players halting the club, his importance has reached a new level. Despite these issues elsewhere, Defoe did what he does best last week, getting one chance to score and putting it away to nearly get Sunderland on the board straight away this season. He'll undoubtedly be the main focus of Middlesbrough's build-up to this game.

My predicted XI

Formation: 4-2-3-1 - Mannone; Love, O'Shea, Dijilobodji, Van Aanholt; Rodwell, McNair; Watmore, Khazri, Januzaj; Defoe/