Sam Allardyce is sweating on the fitness of Jack Rodwell and Sebastian Coates for this weekend’s basement battle with Aston Villa.
Both Rodwell and Coates limped off during last night’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, to further deplete Allardyce’s already-thin options, particularly in defence.
Coates has a chance of featuring at home to bottom side Villa on Saturday, with Sunderland hopeful that the Uruguayan has only suffered bruising, but Rodwell has sustained yet another hamstring problem.
If Coates misses out, it leaves veteran Wes Brown as Allardyce’s only available centre-half, albeit captain John O’Shea has a chance of returning after missing last night’s game with a minor calf injury.
“Problems always arise at this time with injuries – Jack Rodwell and Seb Coates have come off injured which is a big worry for us,” said Allardyce.
“We have to see how those guys are with John O’Shea and Younes (Kaboul) already out, which leaves me very short defensively.
“Rodwell is a hamstring and with Seb we think it’s a collision, so it might be more bruising or a knock. It may be more of a dead-leg than a muscle strain.
“I hope John is available (for Villa).
“Old Wes did fantastic, read the game and played well.
“He hadn’t played since Everton, so with the way it’s going at the moment, he’s very important for us. In fact, everyone is important for us.”
The loss against Liverpool – Sunderland’s fifth in a row – kept the Black Cats engulfed in the thick of the relegation battle; seven points adrift of the safety mark.
Sunderland never recovered from falling behind to Christian Benteke’s goal just 22 seconds into the second half after a much more positive display of commitment from Allardyce’s men was ruined by a lapse of concentration.
“I didn’t think we deserved to lose it, on the basis of how lucky their goal was,” said Allardyce.
“If (Philippe) Coutinho or (Adam) Lallana produced a bit of brilliance, like we know they can do and put it in the bottom corner, then you hold your hands up and say yes.
“But when you get that piece of luck they got – Lallana has miscontrolled it, it’s flicked off his toe and right into Benteke’s path. Even he mis-hit it and it bounced over Vito (Mannone).
“That killed the second half sadly for us because I think we were matching Liverpool in the first half and were hoping we would carry that on.
“But we got kicked in the you-know-whats and I think that killed us, and it took us a while to recover from that.
“And the fans, of course, because they were expecting that we would go out and get the first goal if we could.
“But in the end, our anxiety in the final third just let us down a bit.
“We got there a lot of times, but didn’t produce enough quality to help us get at least a point.
“We have to keep going, keep believing and keep our nerve, and make sure we get ready for our big clash now on Saturday.”