Sunderland centre-backs in race to be fit for cup semi

Modibo Diakite (right) and Valentin Roberge.
Modibo Diakite (right) and Valentin Roberge.
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GUS Poyet will check on the fitness of Sunderland centre-halves Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge ahead of tomorrow night’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Manchester United.

The pair withdrew from the squad 24 hours before Sunderland’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Carlisle United yesterday and Poyet improvised by playing on-loan midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng alongside Wes Brown for the visit of the Cumbrians.

But, with Brown back in harness after his three-match suspension and John O’Shea on the verge of a return from injury, neither may be needed if Poyet opts to deploy the ex-Manchester United men against their former club.

The Black Cats’ head coach revealed: “We had an issue at centre-half because neither Valentin Roberge nor Modibo Diakite were available.

“So we reshuffled the defence and put in Ki Sung-Yueng, who has played there before, and, in the end, it worked out well.

“We might have brought in an Under-21 centre-half if we’d had more time.

“But, with things happening at the last minute in terms of the centre-halves taking knocks, we thought that was unfair – we decided to go with experience instead.

“Wes did very well and it’s great to have him back, but John O’Shea is also making real progress from his shoulder injury and is looking very good in training, so we will have to check on things and see what we have available to us going into the semi-final.”

Poyet, who began his post-match Press conference with the quip: “Hurry up! Manchester United starts in five minutes,” says he will have to continue asking demands of a squad stretched to the limit by the current rush of fixtures.

But he believes the Carlisle cup tie worked out well in allowing him to leave players like Steven Fletcher, Fabio Borini and Emanuele Giaccherini on the bench.

“When I was a player, I always wanted to play, so I’m not going to concern myself too much about two games in 72 hours,” he shrugged.

“But the main thing is that we have given quite a lot of first-team players a rest in the Carlisle game so they will have no excuses not to be fresher for the Manchester United game.

“We don’t have the luxury of playing two separate 11s for the cup games – players who played against Carlisle will have to play against Manchester United.

“But we are pleased at the way that we handled it with the players and there’s no reason now why we can’t be very competitive in the semi-final on Tuesday.

“In terms of training, it’s just a case of keeping things ticking over.”