PHIL Bardsley is expected to shake off his injury problems to keep his place at Ewood Park tonight, with Martin O’Neill praising the determination of the Sunderland defender.
Bardsley had been rated as a major doubt to face Blackburn Rovers in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s draw at Everton after aggravating sore ribs during the first half, which had almost seen him miss the game entirely.
But the right-back trained yesterday after his war-wounds showed a marked improvement and is expected to battle through the pain, as he has done over recent weeks despite ankle and calf injuries.
Sunderland boss O’Neill told the Echo: “Phil is a real warrior and he doesn’t like missing games. I had Phil at Aston Villa and not playing games through injury is not something he’d do.
“But it was very sore at Everton. He couldn’t get a breath for a while and then you’re worried in case he’d broken a couple of ribs. Even bruised ribs stay around long enough.
“I was pretty concerned about him, particularly someone like Phil who wouldn’t normally complain about it. But he did a bit of training yesterday and I think he feels, if anything, a little easier than he did on Saturday morning which is encouraging.
“He’s had the ankle problem this year too and especially when you get a blocked tackle on someone, that causes you a concern.”
While the diagnosis on Bardsley is positive, fellow full-back Kieran Richardson is set to remain on the sidelines.
The left-back has missed Sunderland’s last two games after originally suffering a calf problem against Newcastle and then suffering a relapse last week when he returned to training.
O’Neill said: “Kieran still won’t be available for us and we’ve got one or two other injury niggles. Kieran went for the original scan and it showed very little.
“Then he got another scan after he aggravated it in training and it seemed to show something a wee bit further up, not seemingly related to the original injury he had. It’s disconcerting.”
O’Neill added that he may look to introduce fresh legs to the starting XI with several players carrying knocks and Sunderland facing the second of five games within 14 days.
“It might be a chance to utilise a couple of players who are desperate to play,” he added. “None of them have moaned at all. They all want to play and it might be a case to give a couple of them a chance.”