Poyet: Opportunities knock for returning Sunderland men at Spurs

Santiago Vergini takes on Liverpool's Lucas and Coutinho in Saturday's 1-0 defeat
Santiago Vergini takes on Liverpool's Lucas and Coutinho in Saturday's 1-0 defeat
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SUNDERLAND’S sidelined contingent will have a “big chance” to make their mark at Spurs this weekend.

Gus Poyet was without several key players for Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool, with Jack Rodwell, Steven Fletcher, Lee Cattermole, Jozy Altidore and Anthony Reveillere missing through injury or illness, while Billy Jones and Ricky Alvarez were not risked from the bench.

Cattermole is the biggest doubt among that contingent, with the midfielder yet to return to training from a groin injury, although Poyet is hopeful that he is not facing a sustained spell on the treatment table, with Liam Bridcutt receiving a one-match ban.

But with several of those players likely to be fit for Saturday’s trip to White Hart Lane, head coach Poyet has indicated that he is likely to make changes to his side after the manner of Sunderland’s third loss in four Premier League outings.

“It’s true, there’s chances now,” Poyet said.

“For the players that are coming back from injury, there’s big, big chances and I hope they take it.”

Summer signing Rodwell was due to return to full training today, while Reveillere should be in contention at White Hart Lane after resuming training last week following an Achilles injury.

Jones and Alvarez – who had been suffering with illness last week – could also feature.

But strikers Fletcher and Altidore will both be assessed today after they were late withdrawals to face Liverpool.

Poyet said: “Fletch was very close. He would have been playing, but the groin didn’t let him play.

“And Jozy Altidore got sick during the night on Friday.

“It was an option to play Ricky, but he only trained a day and a half. He’d been sick all week.”

With so many players missing, Poyet introduced Danny Graham from the bench in the second half against Liverpool, with the striker – back from a loan spell at Championship Wolves – making his first Premier League appearance for Sunderland since May 2013.

Fellow frontman Mikael Mandron was also thrown into the fray in the dying stages, although the crowd did not react well to the introduction of the academy product at the expense of Sunderland’s stand-out player Adam Johnson.

However, Poyet insisted that new father Johnson was struggling with fatigue and defended his substitutions.

“We were chasing the game and we needed something different,” said Poyet.

“I think Buckley is the only player in the squad who can go in behind, like he proved in the last minute and when he was offside.

“The rest are not willing or don’t have the characteristics to go in behind defenders, which is part of the game that you need to use.

“Danny has been sharp.

“Connor (Wickham) was too isolated and there was something missing, and I think Danny gave us something different that we didn’t have in the first half.

“Mika was more of a matter of taking off Jonno, because Jonno was a father on Thursday.

“He didn’t train, he’s been very tired without sleeping, but he wanted to play anyway.

“He gave us a proper 85 minutes, and he was very tired.

“Whether people think they were strange decisions or not, if we score, I’m a genius and because we didn’t, they were strange substitutions.”