ADAM JOHNSON and Ricky Alvarez can be used in tandem in the Sunderland starting XI, insists Gus Poyet.
Winger Johnson – rated as 50-50 to feature in tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Swansea City – has been arguably Sunderland’s stand-out performer over recent weeks, topping the Black Cats’ scoring charts with five goals to his name.
But on-loan Inter Milan wideman Alvarez shone after replacing Johnson for Tuesday night’s FA Cup fourth round replay win at Fulham, with the Argentine international opening his account in red and white.
The thumb operation which Johnson underwent in midweek, and the risk of subsequent infection, may lead head coach Poyet to adopt a cautious approach with the England international this weekend, rather than shoe-horning both him and Alvarez into the side.
But Poyet believes there will be certain games on the horizon when it suits Sunderland to use the pair on either flank, to put the opposition on the back foot.
Poyet told the Echo: “At the moment, Jonno has the issues with his hand.
“But there’s going to be a game when we can play with both.
“If they’re playing well, the opposition has a problem.
“That’s the thing we need to learn. There are moments in the games when we need the opposition to be worried about us.
“When you’ve got Jonno and Ricky on the pitch on a good day, I can tell you that it will give the opposition something to think about.
“I’m sure the Fulham left-back went home thinking what a player Ricky Alvarez is.
“I can play with both, and with one striker.
“But at the same time, if Jonno is not 100 per cent...
“That gives you the chance to say, I’ve got Ricky now.
“That’s perfect for us. I see it in top teams when certain players are playing week-in, week-out, then another player comes in and they’re out.
“We need to get used to that and have people take their opportunity.
“If you’re in the team when we’re doing well, you’ve got a great chance to play week-in, week-out.”
Johnson is one of five players rated as doubtful for the Liberty Stadium clash, with question marks also hanging over Will Buckley, Jack Rodwell, Billy Jones and Emanuele Giaccherini, while Connor Wickham is definitely ruled out with a calf injury.
But Seb Larsson will return to the starting XI after the Swedish international was not risked at Fulham.
“He stretched the medial ligament against Burnley with one of the blocks,” added Poyet.
“It was nothing, but when he touched it, it was still painful.
“But he’s recovered perfectly and he trained yesterday no problem.”