Two-week break has boosted Sunderland’s preparations for the Tyne-Wear derby

Jeremain Lens.  Picture by FRANK REID
Jeremain Lens. Picture by FRANK REID
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Sunderland’s squad have used the two-week break from Premier League action productively, with the Black Cats at near full-strength for the Tyne-Wear derby.

Opponents Newcastle United have major injury concerns over Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote heading into Sunday’s St James’s Park showdown, with the pair both rated as major doubts.

But long-term casualty Duncan Watmore and new signing Emmanuel Eboue are the only headaches for Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce, who has Jeremain Lens and Lee Cattermole back at his disposal.

Both Lens and Cattermole featured in last week’s behind-close-doors friendly against Livingston, with Seb Larsson and Younes Kaboul also getting valuable minutes after recently returning from injury.

And despite having to wait a fortnight to resume their battle to stay in the Premier League, Sunderland striker Defoe believes the break has been a helpful one.

“We’ve trained hard, but we have also had a few days to recover,” said Defoe.

“The lads also had a game on last week because otherwise it would have been too long without a game.

“It’s important for the boys who haven’t played to get some minutes, and also for those who are coming back from injury like Jeremain Lens.”

Sunderland went into the two-week break on the back of a sickening last-gasp equaliser at Southampton, which prevented Sam Allardyce’s men creating clear daylight with the relegation zone.

But there is a sense of confidence around the Sunderland camp heading into the derby that they are the side at the bottom who are in the midst of the best run of form.

“We’ve been playing well and the team has been doing well,” added Defoe.

“We should really have got the three points at Southampton, although before the game we would have probably taken a point to be honest.

“It’s just the way the game went that we were so disappointed to have conceded so late.

“It was a great performance though, and if we can do the defensive side of things the same, it will be really difficult for teams to break us down and score.

“On the other side of it, we have to be ruthless in front of goal and take our chances.”