SUNDERLAND have survived without the services of top scorer Steven Fletcher and they can do likewise without fellow forward Stephane Sessegnon.
That’s the message from Sunderland midfielder Seb Larsson after confirmation that Sessegnon will play no part in the remainder of the Black Cats’ battle for Premier League survival.
Sunderland’s bid to have Sessegnon’s three-game suspension lifted for a red card in Monday night’s rout at Aston Villa was yesterday thrown out after an Independent Regulatory Commission backed referee Lee Probert’s decision to dismiss the Benin international for his tackle on Yacouba Sylla.
While the news was not necessarily surprising, it still comes as a major blow for Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio, who is already operating without the services of 11-goal Fletcher.
But Larsson stresses that Sunderland have taken six points from the five games since Fletcher was ruled out for the campaign with ankle ligament damage and the Swedish international is confident they can overcome the loss of in-form Sessegnon too.
Larsson said: “Of course it’s a blow.
“Sessy, especially in the games against Everton and Newcastle, has been on top form.
“He’s a very important player, everybody knows that, there’s no point lying about it.
“But it feels like throughout this season we’ve lost key players through injuries or suspensions.
“We can handle it and deal with it, even though we’ll miss him a lot.
“I think it puts a bit more pressure on everyone’s shoulders. First we lost Fletch who is our top scorer and now Sessy.
“But when we lost Fletch, other people have stepped up in recent weeks. There’ll have to do that again because there’s no other option.”
The absence of Sessegnon for the back-to-back home games against Stoke and Southampton, followed by the final-day trip to Spurs, makes it all the more imperative that Sunderland take their tally to 40 points as soon as possible.
And Larsson admits that with Sunderland just one win away from that total, it is a message Di Canio has been drilling into his players since the Black Cats spurned the opportunity at Villa Park.
Larsson added: “There’s no point dwelling on it (Sessegnon’s absence), we know what we have to do.
“The target is always to get to that 40-point mark, especially where you’ve been where we are. That will hopefully be enough.
“But as the manager has pointed out, our aim was to get there on Monday and we didn’t.
“He’s been very honest in telling us that there’s no point in delaying it. Let’s get it done now and then see what happens.
“We don’t have many games to get there, but it only requires one win.”