LEE CATTERMOLE’S absence this weekend is not a fatal blow to Sunderland’s hopes of moving away from relegation danger, believes team-mate Costel Pantilimon.
Cattermole will serve the first game of a two-match ban against Aston Villa this Saturday after collecting his 10th booking of the season in last week’s draw at Hull City.
Lee is a very important part of our team, but midfield players will pick up bans and we have to cope with that and make sure we can carry on.Costel Pantilimon
Sunderland’s midfield struggled to convince without the injured Cattermole at the start of 2015, before the Teessider returned to the fray three games ago.
But goalkeeper Pantilimon says Sunderland have to cope without the influential Cattermole – a key figure for Gus Poyet’s side both on and off-the-pitch.
“Lee is a good player, a good lad and a good team-mate,” said the Romanian.
“He is aggressive and he fights all the time for the team, and he has great spirit.
“He is a very important part of our team, but midfield players will pick up bans and we have to cope with that and make sure we can carry on.
“This is the situation we have and we will have to adapt without him for the next two games.
“We have plenty of players in the dressing room and I think whoever comes in can do a great job.”
Sunderland have fluffed the opportunity to pull decisively clear of the bottom three over the last month after Poyet’s men were unable to beat fellow strugglers QPR, West Brom and Hull.
Saturday’s encounter provides yet another chance that Sunderland can ill-afford to squander, with Villa just one point and one place behind the Black Cats in the table.
“It is very tight because this is the second half of the fixtures,” added Pantilimon.
“It’s important, especially at home, because you want always to take the three points when you are at home.
“This is the moment for us to do that.
“It is an important game, that is sure. But it is not the most important game of the season.
“We respect the opponent, like every opponent, but I hope we can take the three points.
“At home, normally we are stronger, and we always have the fans’ support which is very important at this moment – to be together.
“It makes us a stronger team and it will help us get results.
“The fans put pressure on our opponents and give us life.
“I have a good feeling when they are behind us.”