MARTIN O’Neill hopes Kieran Richardson will be fit to face Manchester City tomorrow and solve the problem of Wayne Bridge’s unavailability.
On-loan full-back Bridge cannot play against his parent club tomorrow because of Premier League rules and Richardson is battling to recover from a calf-injury sustained in the Tyne-Wear derby at the start of the month.
The 27-year-old has made a good recovery and could be included in the squad for tomorrow’s trip to the Etihad Stadium.
And O’Neill, generally reluctant to put a timescale on injuries, has admitted that Richardson is close.
“It’s been disappointing for Kieran, because he was playing well until he suffered the injury,” said the Black Cats boss. “But he is making good progress and hopefully he won’t be out for too much longer.”
If Richardson is still out, O’Neill is likely to ask Jack Colback to play at left-back – as he did in Sunderland’s New Year’s Day win against City at the Stadium of Light.
Colback is available again after being allowed to miss Sunderland’s midweek FA Cup defeat against Everton when he became a father for the first time on the morning of the match.
Meanwhile, centre-back John O’Shea also missed the Everton game after sustaining a calf injury less than half-an-hour into last weekend’s win over Queens Park Rangers.
The former Manchester United man has been in great form over the last few weeks but faces a struggle to be fit to face City.
The manager said: “John has been fantastic for us recently, reaching the kind of high standards that he produced for so long during his years with Manchester United.
“I’ve often said that it can be difficult for players with a proven pedigree to come into a new club and settle down immediately.
“So much is expected of them straight away.
“But over the last few weeks he has been coming on brilliantly and it is a shame that he is out at the moment.”
Meanwhile, fellow centre-back Wes Brown is nearing a comeback after spending eight weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury but he will not be rushed back after such a long absence.
That means Michael Turner and on-loan Wolfsburg man Sotirios Kyrgiakos are again set to line up in central defence for the Wearsiders.
Right-back Phil Bardsley and winger Seb Larsson both came through the Everton game without any problems after they were rested for the QPR game the previous weekend.