Emanuele Giaccherini has been challenged to show what he can do in his favourite position today.
The Italian is arguably the most talented member of Sunderland’s squad, but has failed to show it since joining from Juventus in the summer.
His substitute appearance at Old Trafford on Wednesday was his first outing since New Year’s Day – but he is set to start in a much-changed team against Kidderminster Harriers in this afternoon’s FA Cup fourth round game.
It will be in his preferred ‘No.10’ position, where he has started just three times for the Black Cats.
Coach Gustavo Poyet is willing him to make his life more difficult.
The Uruguayan said: “He’s a special case.
“He prefers to play as one of the two central midfielders.
“In my formation I thought he was more of a wide player coming in but he prefers to play in the middle. He played there all the time in Italy.
“I like him and I want him here. He’s always positive, whether he’s playing or not.
“He trains hard and I love the mentality they bring from Italy. They want to do extra work and extra running and he always wants to do a little bit more with the fitness coach.”
Poyet’s 4-1-4-1 formation does not have Giaccherini’s preferred role, and Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson have made stronger cases to play in the wide roles. Unlikely though it seems, Poyet says he would consider a different formation was Giaccherini to force the issue with his performances.
He added: “We had a great chat the other day and I made the position clear,.
“It’s a bit like Fabio Borini – he deserved to play when I first came in but he didn’t. That was down to me, not him.
“He was spot-on most of the time but I couldn’t play him. I was searching to play him and Giaccherini’s like that.
“He needs to be ready because if he comes in and we win, win, win then he’ll stay in. I’d be prepared to change the formation.”
Poyet said after Wednesday’s penalty shoot-out win at Manchester United he would make 11 changes from the side which reached the League Cup final.
An injury to Andrea Dossena could change that, but the side will be unrecognisable, with centre-back Santiago Vergini and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari making debuts.
Poyet portrayed it as an opportunity for those selected.
He stressed: “People are playing for the possibility of being involved in the first team.
“Can you go and break down Kidderminster, and really go and create something?
“If you can’t do that, how are you going to do it against Manchester City in a month’s time?
“The ones who get their chance need to be aware of that.
“It will depend on how good we are in the last third and that’s something we’re looking hard at.
“If people go in with the wrong mentality against Kidderminster, they’re in danger of not being part of the main group every week”.
Despite Sunderland’s interest in midfielders Liam Bridcutt and Argentina international Ever Banega, Poyet has no plans to sell Lee Cattermole (below) to Stoke.
He said: “Everybody has a price but we don’t want to lose anyone.
“Catts has had a much bigger role to play than people thought when we started playing the football we tried to. I’m pleased for him, he’s adapted very well.”
Stoke manager Mark Hughes admitted: “Given the fact Sunderland had a fantastic result and the player you mention played really well on the night, it’s highly unlikely it will happen.”