Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch . Picture credit: Richard Sellers / PA Archive/PA Images

Sunderland U23s will begin their Premier League International Cup campaign tonight when they host German side Hertha Berlin at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats reached the final of the European competition last season before being outclassed 5-0 by Portuguese giants Porto in May.

Elliott Dickman’s side have been drawn in Group B this time around, alongside Berlin, Polish outfit Legia Warsaw and Leicester City.

“It was a great experience (getting to the final last year), but we have a different squad this season and the main thing is about making sure we see the lads progress and improve as players,” Dickman told the club’s website.

“Some of the lads might have missed out on playing at the Stadium of Light at Youth Cup level due to injuries or selection, so it’s important they sample the atmosphere and don’t get overawed by it,” he added.

Last season, the under-23 setup provided a platform for academy graduates Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman to break into the first team.

The game against Berlin could provide an opportunity for first teamers Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair to regain their fitness after recovering from long-term injury setbacks.

Teenage forward Josh Maja could also feature after missing a month of action with a knee problem.

After six games, Sunderland sit 10th in the Premier League 2 – Division 1 table, following one win, two draws and three defeats.

Dickman, who took over from Andy Welsh last season, will hope for a better display from his side following Sunderland’s 1-0 defeat to Doncaster in the Checkatrade Trophy last week.

“Doncaster was a tough game and it was good to play against a first team,” said the Sunderland boss.

”But in my experience these international games are always a different challenge for the players and for us as staff.”

Sunderland’s previous home games have been played at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground meaning this is the first opportunity for Dickman’s youngsters to play at the club’s main stadium.