BAILEY WRIGHT and Frederik Alves will form Sunderland’s centre-half partnership at Blackpool this evening, and with Lee Johnson set to ring the changes for his side’s Carabao Cup second-round tie, Niall Huggins has been lined up to make his Black Cats debut.

Johnson confirmed yesterday that Wright and Alves will both start at Bloomfield Road, with the Sunderland boss having ruled out selling the former in the strongest possible fashion at the weekend despite ongoing interest from Wigan. Alves, a summer loan signing from West Ham, will be making his first appearance in a Sunderland shirt.

Huggins will also make his Black Cats bow, with another summer signing, Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead, expected to lead the line against Championship opposition.

“Bailey will start as well as Frederik, and it will be nice to see how that partnership works,” said Johnson, who watched his side win at Vale Park in the first round. “There were good parts to our play at Port Vale, but there were some parts that were short in my opinion.

“I want to progress, I want to win the game. I’m going to try and find the balance between blooding a few new players, a few young players as well, but also having that strong spine that we need to go and be competitive in the game.”

Huggins completed a permanent move from Leeds on Friday evening, and while the York-born 20-year-old did not have much involvement in his former employers’ pre-season programme, Johnson is keen to get him up and running as quickly as possible.

“I’ll have to assess him,” said the Sunderland head coach. “It’s an option (to start him), but he hasn’t had a competitive game yet and so that has to be a consideration for us.

“He’s done a lot of fitness work, he was one of five or six Leeds players who had been told their future maybe lay elsewhere and therefore they trained as a separate group. He’s a real whippet, fast and very progressive in his thinking in terms of carrying the ball.”

He is also an extremely versatile player, having filled both full-back positions during his youth career with Leeds.

Having opted for a radical overhaul of his squad this summer, Johnson has been prioritising the acquisition of players able to fill a number of different positions.

Luke O’Nien excelled as a makeshift centre-half last season despite having spent the majority of his previous time playing in midfield, while Carl Winchester and Dan Neil have both impressed at full-back in the early stages of the current campaign despite being more normally known as midfielders.

“It enables me to keep a tighter squad and keep more players happy,” explained Johnson. “The hardest thing as a manager is when you’re having to leave players like Jack Diamond out your squad when you don't want to.

“We’re still in the market, I still want a couple more players whether that’s now or January. But the squad is shaping up now.”

In particular, Johnson remains keen to add another natural full-back to the ranks to compete with Huggins and Dennis Cirkin and ensure Sunderland are not wholly reliant on having to play Winchester and Neil out of position.

Arsenal youngster Ryan Alebiosu is known to be a target, with the Sunderland hierarchy having discussed the 19-year-old’s position with senior figures at the Emirates. Alebiosu was made available for a loan earlier this summer.

“For the long term we are still looking there, yeah,” said Johnson. “Niall can play both sides and he can also play in central midfield. You're going to need that.

“Touch wood, Luke O'Nien is okay (with his shoulder) but there again, you have more cover now we have these lads who can move and fill different spots. I’ve been really impressed with the intelligence and agility we’ve played with this season.”

Sunderland (probable, 4-3-3): Patterson; Huggins, Wright, Alves, Cirkin; Diamond, O’Nien, Embleton; O’Brien, Broadhead, Hawkes.