CAN comeback kid Fraizer Campbell play three games in six days?
That’s the big question facing Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill as he prepares his in-form team for a trip to the Britannia Stadium tomorrow.
Campbell has made an astonishing return from 17 months out sidelined with cruciate ligament injuries – scoring two great goals in back-to-back appearances.
But Stoke City is likely to be a physically demanding third game inside a week and O’Neill told the Echo: “It is going to be a big decision to make in regards to Fraizer.
“It’s one that I’ll give a lot of thought to in consultation with our medical team.
“If I left it to Fraizer, he’s say he’d want to start and he’d be happy to play the whole 90 minutes!
“That’s the sort of lad he is. He’s just so enthusiastic and wants to play every game. But we have to be careful and consider what’s the best thing to do in his interests as well as ours.
“He’d done really well to get through a whole half on Sunday and then 75 minutes midweek.
“I had thought about taking him off earlier against Norwich – maybe after the hour – but I found myself hanging on that wee bit longer, asking that bit more of him because I wanted to be absolutely certain of winning the game before taking him off.
“Whatever happens this weekend though we’ve got to have an eye on making sure we don’t ask too much of him in what we have to remember is his first week back playing in the Premier League.”
O’Neill knows that this weekend’s game will be challenging for every one of his players, not just Campbell.
Sunderland can expect a typically bruising encounter against Stoke as the Potteries side looks to turn around a mini-slump in form which has seen only one point taken from their last nine.
Tony Pulis’s strong, physically intimidating side have earned a reputation since their return to the Premier League for direct, no-nonsense football with visiting sides needing to stand up and be counted if they’re going to prosper.
And O’Neill is conscious of the fact this is Sunderland’s third game in six days after a demanding encounter in the FA Cup against local rivals Middlesbrough on Sunday and then a tremendous team effort against Norwich on Wednesday.
“The games are coming thick and fast now and it’s a real test of the squad,” the Sunderland manager acknowledged..
“That’s one of the reasons why I was pleased to at least get a few minutes into Wayne Bridge against Norwich.
“You don’t want to change a winning side but we do have some players in the wings who are itching to be part of the team.
“David Meyler for example is a perfect example of someone who can’t wait for more first-team football, but there are others too, and it’s something we’ll look at.”