INJURIES will force Martin O’Neill to delay his team selection against Villa on Saturday until the last minute.
The Black Cats’ boss saw three of his players suffer knocks in last week’s game against Stoke City – Craig Gardner, Seb Larsson and Danny Rose.
And on top of that, Carlos Cuellar felt a slight recurrence of the hamstring strain which sidelined him for a couple of weeks earlier in the season.
O’Neill told the Echo: “Carlos got through the Middlesbrough game fine midweek. No problem. But then overnight he felt a tightening in his hamstring and it’s something we have been looking at since then.
“None of the injuries are serious – Seb and Craig had dead legs and Danny Rose has a cut to his ankle which is taking time to heal – that’s why we decided to rest them for the cup tie.
“But there’s every chance they’ll be fine – Craig trained yesterday and generally they’ll be there or thereabouts.
“It’s just that we can’t say for definite as things stand right now who will be fit and who won’t be.”
Regardless of who gets selected for the visit of O’Neill’s old club, the manager will expect a major improvement from the performance witnessed by fans who saw the side crash out to Middlesbrough on Tuesday.
“It was a major disappointment and we let people down,” he said. “The way to get around that is to go out there and get a win, get a goal or two, give a good display.
“It’s a very important game for us and more importantly it is a home game.
“We need to get the crowd behind us this weekend and the way you do that is by playing well.
“We actually started brightly against Middlesbrough and created some good openings but if you don’t capitalise when you’re on top, then there’s the danger that you lose your way and that’s what happened to us.
“Against Villa we need to have that self-belief and keep on going.
“If the ball’s not rolling for or we’re finding it a bit difficult, well that’s just football, you roll your sleeves up and go again. We’ve got some very talented players in the club and for one reason or another it just hasn’t been happening for them.
“But what you need to do is to just keep on going because the simple fact is that all the problems we have are nothing that a goal or two wouldn’t solve.”