Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher to return against Aston Villa

Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher
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Steven Fletcher will be available for Sunderland’s basement battle with Aston Villa tomorrow after being left out as a precaution against Liverpool.

Fletcher underwent a fitness test on Wednesday morning ahead of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss against Liverpool and was judged to be in sufficient shape to face Jurgen Klopp’s side.

But Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce ultimately decided against taking a chance on the Scotland international, with the Black Cats squad already depleted by injuries.

Fletcher is fit to face Villa though, with Allardyce facing the familiar dilemma over whether he can pair the £12million frontman alongside Jermain Defoe.

Allardyce said: “Fletcher’s okay, he had a bit of a knock and I didn’t want to risk him.

“He had a fitness test on Wednesday morning and said he was okay to play, but I didn’t want to risk him, so he could be 100 per cent ready for the weekend. We’ve got enough injuries as it is.”

Captain John O’Shea has a chance of being available to face Villa too, with Sunderland desperate for the centre-half to return.

Sunderland are on the verge of sealing a deal for Lorient centre-half Lamine Kone, but the Ivory Coast international would not be eligible to face Villa, with the transfer window opening tomorrow. After Seb Coates limped off against Liverpool, Allardyce would have to turn to either full-back Billy Jones or youngster Tom Beadling to partner veteran Wes Brown, if both Coates and O’Shea are absent.

But midfielder Jack Rodwell definitely misses out after yet another recurrence of a hamstring injury.

Rodwell visited a specialist in Germany last month in a bid to solve a problem which has plagued him for several years, yet the £10million man was forced off after just 30 minutes against Liverpool.

“It’s another chapter in the saga of can we keep Jack Rodwell fit?” added Allardyce.

“We thought we were getting there and he’d been available for a few weeks, but now it’s struck again. It’s back to what can we do differently that we haven’t already done to prevent those injuries.”