Sunderland predicted XI vs Manchester City: Who will make David Moyes' first starting side?

A look at who will start for Sunderland in their Premier League opener at Manchester City on Saturday.

Sunderland predicted XI vs Manchester City: Who will make David Moyes' first starting side?
Image credit: Sunderland AFC

Sunderland start their season at Manchester City on Saturday, but who will make it into David Moyes' first competitive starting eleven?

Mannone almost certain to start in goal

This position is one of just a couple in the team, where there isn't any doubt over who will play. The fact that Vito Mannone will start after playing as big of a part as anybody else in keeping Sunderland in the top flight of English football once again is no surprise. Arguably though his back-up Jordan Pickford did have a better pre-season in terms of conceding less goals during his minutes on the pitch.

However, for now, Mannone is firmly Sunderland's number one and it will take something eye-catching - in a negative way - for new manager Moyes to move away from having the Italian between the posts. Mannone did lose his place in 2014/15 after a poor start to the season, so he will be guarded against the same thing happening this term.

Change at right-back, but otherwise as you were

If you've followed anything related to Sunderland this week, then you'll know there's some doubt over a particular player at the heart of the Black Cats' defence. This player is of course Lamine Kone who, after being the subject of a bid from Everton earlier in the week, decided to hand in a transfer request on Thursday night.

However, despite this decision he also vowed in the same statement that he would continue to commit to the football club while he was still under contract. For this and other reasons he should be in the team and reignite his central defensive partnership with Younes Kaboul that was stunning at the end of the last season.

Moving out wide and at left back there is no decision to be made with Patrick van Aanholt being Sunderland's only real option in this position. The lack of depth is not the reason that van Aanholt is one of the first names on the team-sheet, though. The real reason is what he brings going forward, with his pace and how he improved under Sam Allardyce defensively.

Switching over to the other side and the most problematic decision for Moyes in his first team selection; who plays right back? The obvious choice would have been Billy Jones, but Moyes revealed in his pre-match press conference that he was one of a few players out injured.

Therefore the position may well need to be filled by a centre-back and the main contenders appear to be two players just signed from Manchester United for a combined fee of £5.5 million. These two youngsters being Donald Love and Paddy McNair, who are both recognised as central defenders.

However, they've both filled in at right back during their young careers and have done pretty well, especially with McNair playing a fair bit of first team football under Louis van Gaal at United. The slightly less experienced Love is the favourite in many people's opinions though, as McNair seems set to feature elsewhere in the team. 

It wasn't long ago that Kone arrived at the Stadium of Light, will he be off again this summer? | Image credit: Sunderland AFC
It wasn't long ago that Kone arrived at the Stadium of Light, will he be off again this summer? | Image credit: Sunderland AFC

Who will anchor the midfield?

The other spot in this team for McNair, after missing out at right back, is in a holding midfield role because Moyes revealed further injury issues in this position, with Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchoff and Sebastian Larsson all out injured.

Therefore the Northern Ireland international will have to play and the club have said he is being signed as a defensive midfielder; another area where he's filled in quite successfully. As far as who plays alongside him in the middle, it also is a selection enforced because of injury and Jack Rodwell is likely to start against a former club.

Depending on the way Moyes wants to play at the Etihad Stadium, Rodwell will either sit deep alongside McNair in a 4-2-3-1 formation or play a bit further forward in a 4-1-3-2 set-up; such is his more box-to-box nature as a midfielder. 

Wing wizards

Whatever the formation there will be two players out wide and, like many other areas going into Friday, the options have been changed following the Moyes press conference. The real positive news line coming out of the meeting with the media was the signing of Adnan Januzaj on a season long loan from Manchester United.

However, despite the capture of the Belgian international and his links to Moyes - who gave Januzaj his debut at Manchester United against Sunderland three years ago - he could start on the bench against City having not trained yet with his new teammates. 

The starters are likely to be Wahbi Khazri and Jermain Lens, both of which have had impressive pre-seasons. Lens is trying to endear himself to the fans after a disappointing first season, while Khazri produced some spectacular moments at the end of the campaign.

Perhaps a front two?

There's no need to waste too much time on this area of the field, with Jermain Defoe definitely set to start despite having a niggle through pre-season; Defoe was the main factor in Sunderland staying up with his 15 league goals in 2015-16. Then, with the injuries in midfield, Moyes well go with two up front giving Fabio Borini, the leading scorer in the friendlies, a chance to play in his natural role down the middle.

Predicted XI

4-1-3-2: Mannone; Love, Kone, Kaboul, van Aanholt; McNair; Lens, Rodwell, Khazri; Defoe, Borini.