Sunderland did not have a game during the international break but Jack Ross can use his time to watch Benjamin ‘Benji’ Kimpioka in action. Kimpioka’s Sweden U21 team take on the Republic of Ireland in a European qualifier tonight.
There were a handful of Sunderland players in action for their respective countries during this international break. Kimpioka is one of them. He will be aiming to impress for Sweden U21s and this could earn him a senior call-up if he impresses.
Ross not quite sure on Kimpioka
Over the past season, Ross has given Kimpioka a few chances in the first-team but he has never been given a long run in the side. While Ross put his faith in young striker Josh Maja, he has not been as willing to give Kimpioka the first-team responsibilities.
Nevertheless, the 19-year-old has played nine times for the Black Cats, scoring twice and providing one assist. But only four of those outings came in the league and he has not played this season. Kimpioka made the bench for the game against Burnley but a goalscoring appearance for Sweden could push him up the pecking order.
Republic of Ireland’s stout defence
Kimpioka’s ability will be tested tonight as he faces a strong Republic of Ireland defence. In goal, the Boys in Green have Caoimhin Kelleher – a young Liverpool goalkeeper rated very highly by Jurgen Klopp.
Kelleher’s former Liverpool team-mate Conor Masterson, who joined QPR in the summer, could line up in defence. But Stoke City star Nathan Collins – who has already captained the Potters this season – will hope to bring his Championship form into tonight’s game.
Celtic new boy Lee O’Connor is another obstacle blocking Kimpioka tonight. Up against some talented defenders, Kimpioka will do well to impress and catch the attention of Ross.
Kimpioka aiming for Grigg’s spot
Sunderland duo Marc McNulty and Charlie Wyke have impressed at times this season with their contrasting styles. But Will Grigg is still struggling at The Stadium of Light.
If Kimpioka aims to get into the Sunderland side, it will probably be at the expense of Grigg unless an injury opens the door. If Kimpioka can prove his goalscoring prowess while Grigg continues to struggle, then Ross might be tempted to roll the dice and call him up.