Jordi Gomez is on stand-by to remain in a holding midfield role, if Lee Cattermole fails to return at Crystal Palace on Monday night.
Cattermole missed Sunderland’s defeat to Southampton a fortnight ago after limping off with a troublesome groin problem at Everton the previous weekend.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has been hopeful that the international break will provide a window of opportunity for Cattermole to recover after the injury had been affecting him for several weeks.
But Cattermole didn’t feature in a behind-close-doors game at the Academy of Light earlier this week, albeit the scheduling of Sunderland’s televised trip to Selhurst Park provides extra opportunity for the midfielder to return to action.
Gomez took Cattermole’s place alongside fellow deep-lying midfielder Yann M’Vila against Southampton after previously being used in that role against Tottenham and Bournemouth by Allardyce’s predecessor, Dick Advocaat.
The Spaniard netted six times in a his maiden season on Wearside last year after predominantly playing as an attacking midfielder, but he insists he is happy to play in a deeper position.
I’ve been playing in a more defensive position this season, so that’s probably why I’ve not been among the goalsJordi Gomez
“We’ve been playing mostly with two deeper midfielders and one attacking one, and I’ve mostly been used as one of the two sitting players,” said Gomez.
“I don’t mind playing in that role. I enjoy it just as well.
“But obviously if you’re playing in a more advanced position, you’ve got more chances to score.
“I’ve been playing in a more defensive position this season, so that’s probably why I’ve not been among the goals.
“But of course I want to score when I get the chance, and hopefully I can get as many as last season.”
One of Gomez’s half-dozen goals last season came in November’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace - Sunderland’s maiden success on the road of the campaign.
That result took Sunderland out of the relegation zone following a brief 48 hour stay, with the Black Cats not falling into the bottom three again until April.
Sunderland are in even more dire need of a victory on Monday, with Allardyce’s side four points adrift of safety.
“We had a great game there last year, got three points and hopefully we can do the same again,” added Gomez.
“We need the points again and the confidence to get more results.
“There’s been small details in games which have gone against us.
“We have to make sure those details go for us and then we can start picking up points.
“We’ve been trying to get the manager’s ideas across during this break.
“The main thing is he wants us to be more solid because we’ve been conceding a lot of goals.
“It’s not only defence, it’s the whole team that has to be prepared for that.”