PHIL PARKINSON has confirmed he will use tomorrow’s Trophy game with Leicester City Under-21s to run the rule over a number of players that have barely featured during his first month as Sunderland manager.

Having recovered from injury, Alim Ozturk and Laurens de Bock are set to start tomorrow’s game at the Stadium of Light. Dylan McGeouch will line up in midfield, having failed to feature in any of Sunderland’s matches under Parkinson to date, while Benji Kimpioka is set to lead the line in attack.

The Black Cats will be guaranteed a place in the knockout rounds of the EFL Trophy if they win tomorrow night, but at this stage of the competition, spreading the load around the squad remains the overriding priority.

Parkinson said: “It’s a night to have a look at a few of the players that haven’t played yet. There’s a few different options in the side. It’s still a learning curve for myself and Steve (Parkin) to get to know some of the lads, and this is a good opportunity for us to do that.

“We’re taking the game seriously, but it’s an opportunity to look at some of the players that haven’t had much game time so far. Any time any player pulls on a Sunderland shirt, it’s a serious game, but we’ve got to be honest and say that when it comes to our priority list, it’s not at the top.”

Sunderland’s run to the final of last season’s Checkatrade Trophy proved something of a double-edged sword, with the club enjoying a memorable day out at Wembley but the extra matches in the second half of the season in particular contributing to a fixture pile-out that ultimately damaged the Black Cats’ hopes of winning promotion.

Parkinson accepts there is a need to strike the right balance, but insists the EFL Trophy still merits its place on the lower-league calendar.

He said: “You have to be honest and say that at this stage, it can be a low-key competition, but then as Sunderland’s experiences last season proved, it can become a very exciting competition once you progress to the last rounds. I’ve always tended to use the competition to get a good look at the whole of the squad.

“In terms of the way the competition is organised now, I personally think it’s a good idea to bring Premier League teams’ Under-21s into the tournament. It’s good for the development of those players. Under-21 football can sometimes not be a true reflection of what you’re going to meet in league football, so games like this help with those players’ development.”