The latest injury setback to hit Sunderland manager David Moyes has seen his defensive options reduce even further.
The Black Cats boss revealed today that star stopper Lamine Kone is a serious injury doubt for tomorrow’s game against Stoke City.
And with Jason Denayer also having picked up a strain on international duty, Moyes may be forced to field a patched-up defence.
The Scot had pondered over a three-man central defensive unit with wing-backs, but may be forced to keep a flat back four for the visit to the Potteries.
If that is the case, Javier Manquillo looks set to line up at right-back, while veteran John O’Shea would be relied upon to hold the centre of Sunderland’s defence together if Kone fails to prove his fitness.
The Ivorian’s absence would open the door for a recall for Papy Djilobodji, who has struggled for form since his £8.5million move from Chelsea in the summer.
And Denayer’s injury is likely to see Patrick van Aanholt back in the starting XI at left-back after he was dropped against West Brom, only to emerge from the bench to grab an equaliser in a more advanced role.
Moyes’ only other defensive options would be to slot midfielders Jack Rodwell or Paddy McNair into defence, but given the absence of Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff and Seb Larsson, they will be needed in the centre of the park.
Billy Jones and Donald Love, who both played in the Checkatrade Trophy clash with Hartlepool, can provide full-back cover.
Moyes will assess Kone’s injury later today after training.