Ball: Sunderland can cope without strike duo

Caretaker Manager Kevin Ball.
Caretaker Manager Kevin Ball.
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KEVIN BALL is confident Sunderland’s attack has the work ethic needed to shrug off the absence of two frontmen against Liverpool tomorrow.

Sunderland will be without strikers Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini this weekend as they look to pierce a Liverpool defence that began the season with three successive Premier League clean sheets.

Fletcher faces a four to six week lay-off from the shoulder injury sustained at West Brom last weekend, even though that prognosis is better than Sunderland had initially expected.

On-loan Liverpool frontman Borini is also unavailable, with the Italian ineligible to face his parent club.

Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini, partnered together for the first time in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough, are likely to remain as the front two and Ball says he has faith that his strikers have the grit needed for the encounter.

“It’s good news with Fletcher, hopefully four to six weeks and he’s delighted with that. The news is better than we feared,” said caretaker boss Ball.

“If it had been a lot longer, then he would have been really disappointed.

“Obviously Borini is not available this weekend as was agreed.

“But we’ve got lads up front who will work their socks off and try to do what they can to help us win the game.

“That’s all I’d ask. If they do the best they can, then I can’t argue with that.

“If they don’t do that, then they’ve got cause for me to speak with them.”

While Sunderland’s attacking ranks are depleted, Liverpool’s have been boosted by the return of Luis Suarez.

The controversial Uruguayan made his comeback in Wednesday’s League Cup defeat at Manchester United after completing a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

“Listen, what’s happened with Suarez has happened and he’s paid his price,” said Ball.

“I just think now’s the time we have to think of what he does as a footballer.

“Some of the stuff he does is absolutely exquisite.

“He’s done what he’s done, he’s served his ban and let’s just hope from his point of view that this is the last time anything like this happens.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland skipper John O’Shea is expected to be fit for tomorrow’s encounter after being taken off as a precaution during the second half against Peterborough.

“He (O’Shea) had a little niggle in his leg, but we knew about it at half-time so we were aware of it,” added Ball.

“That’s important communication-wise.

“After 10 or 15 minutes of the second half, Seb (Larsson) shouted and we said ‘fine, bring him off’. We were ready to adjust.”