fitness fight for Sunderland’s Ji and Diakite

Modibo Diakite.
Modibo Diakite.
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JI DONG-WON and Modibo Diakite will spend this week working on their fitness at the Academy of Light after being left behind for Sunderland’s pre-season trip to Hong Kong.

Injuries have ruled the pair out of participating in the Barclays Asia Trophy, with Paolo Di Canio opting not to bring the duo to the Far East.

Bosman signing Diakite didn’t feature in either of Sunderland’s behind-closed-doors training games in Italy earlier this month after spending the bulk of last season on the treatment table with former club Lazio.

After such a lengthy hiatus, Diakite is perhaps inevitably working on his fitness and he has been given a programme to boost his conditioning on Wearside before Di Canio’s men return home next week.

Ji, meanwhile, is understood to have impressed Di Canio on the training ground since Sunderland returned to work three weeks ago.

The South Korean’s Sunderland career looked to have reached a conclusion, amid interest from several Bundesliga clubs, after his successful loan spell with German side Augsburg last season.

But Ji’s form has been a welcome boost for Di Canio and the 22-year-old is in line for a second chance at the Stadium of Light, particularly after the departure of fellow frontman Danny Graham to Hull City.

Ji would have hoped to make a further impression in Hong Kong, but his absence leaves Di Canio with only three senior strikers at his disposal for tomorrow’s Asia Trophy opener against Spurs – Jozy Altidore, Stephane Sessegnon and Connor Wickham, with academy product Mikael Mandron offering back-up.

Meanwhile, Gino Peruzzi’s protracted move to Sunderland is expected to be finally concluded in the coming days after the Argentine defender underwent a second medical examination.

Peruzzi’s £3million switch to the Stadium of Light has dragged on for the last month after first being delayed over problems with the right-back agreeing personal terms and now an issue with the 22-year-old’s fitness.

The Argentina international travelled to Wearside last week for a medical, which showed that the Velez Sarsfield man had some remaining damage from a knee ligament injury. But Velez released a statement yesterday, confirming Peruzzi has passed a subsequent medical in Italy and his move should be completed when Sunderland return from their pre-season tour of Hong Kong next week.

“Sunderland requested permission to subject Gino Peruzzi to a final evaluation at the Clinica Deportiva Villa Stuart in Rome, which is directed by the renowned Professor Pier Paolo Mariani,” said the statement. “The evaluation had a positive result with Prof Mariani recommending specific work on the affected muscle area.

“Meanwhile, Sunderland had travelled to Hong Kong for some international matches, so the English club’s authorities communicated their intention to sign the contract on the return of their president in the course of this week.

“Our club’s entourage returned to Argentina on Sunday, anticipating that Gino Peruzzi will travel to England again in the coming days.”