RICKY ALVAREZ has handed Sunderland a much-needed injury boost by getting ahead of schedule in his recovery.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet announced a fortnight ago that summer signing Alvarez was expected to join fellow injury victim Emanuele Giaccherini on the sidelines for at least a month, due to a knee problem.
But while this weekend’s visit of Arsenal is likely to come too soon for Alvarez, the on-loan Inter Milan midfielder should be back in contention next week ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace.
That is welcome news for Poyet, whose options have been decimated by Alvarez, Giaccherini, Billy Jones, Sebastian Coates and Jozy Altidore all spending time on the treatment table.
Poyet was forced to name Danny Graham and Cabral among the substitutes for last weekend’s 8-0 mauling at Southampton, with the latter appearing in a Sunderland matchday 18 for the first time since December after not even getting a squad number during the summer.
And while Poyet has pledged not to rush back Alvarez, he is pleased to see the Argentine international making progress.
He told the Echo: “I think it’s going to be less time than we thought.
“I don’t want to go into particular detail but it’s going very well.
“I think Ricky will be another week or two. We want him to be back, playing and feeling good.
“I don’t want to force him to play. It’s a tricky one.
“I would like him to play straight away but at the same time I need to be careful.”
Alvarez made a huge impression as a substitute in last month’s goalless draw against Swansea, but that proved to be the source of his injury.
He tweaked a muscle in his knee during the game, before the severity of the problem emerged in training the following week.
“It’s something that happened in the Swansea game,” added Poyet.
“There was a ball that he played over someone’s head, then sprinted. Something happened then.
“We’ve got it on video and it’s very clear what happened.
“These sort of situations happen in football.”
While Alvarez is closing in on a return, Giaccherini faces a battle to be fit before the next international break.
The Italian international has been wearing a protective boot after suffering severe bruising to his foot in last month’s goalless draw at Burnley.