STEPHANE Sessegnon could go into Sunderland’s new campaign with only one pre-season game under his belt after picking up an ankle injury.
The Black Cats’ star man was due to make his close-season bow in tonight’s friendly against Derby County at Pride Park and then up his preparations in the final warm-up game against Leicester City on Saturday.
But a knock in training at the Academy of Light on Monday has left the Benin international struggling for this evening’s game and he has undergone a scan to assess the damage.
Missing the Derby game would be a blow for the 28-year-old, just back from an extended summer break due to his involvement in World Cup qualifiers in June.
And Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill admits he can only hope that the African is fit to face the Foxes at the weekend.
“Sessegnon hurt his ankle in training on Monday and I don’t know whether he will make tonight’s game,” he confirmed.
“Hopefully he will be okay for Saturday’s match.”
Sessegnon was one of six players involved in international action during the close-season who were given extra time off and who are only now starting to get involved.
Four of them – Keiren Westwood, John O’Shea, James McClean and Seb Larsson – have already got some pre-season minutes under their belts, Westwood returning in the friendly against Hartlepool while the other three were eased back in the game against top Swedish side Helsingborgs last weekend.
African duo Sessegnon and Ahmed Elmohamady missed the trip to Scandinavia through visa issues but were pencilled in for the club’s final two friendlies.
Although Sessegnon is struggling, Elmohamady is set to play against the Rams.
But Phil Bardsley – yet to play a pre-season game after picking up an ankle injury in the first week of pre-season - will miss out again.
O’Neill revealed: “Elmohamady is back and not doing too badly, so he should be in action.
“We’ll see. We’ve got a couple of injuries to contend with.
“Phil Bardsley has had a setback too which is a shame, but whatever comes and goes we’ll have to get ourselves ready for Saturday week and the start of the new season.”
H Fans can buy tickets for tonight’s game from the away ticket office at Pride Park this evening. Seats are priced at £12 adults and £6 for over-60s and under-18s.