SUNDERLAND’S attacking options could be further depleted for Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge, with Nicklas Bendtner an injury concern.
Bendtner has hit a modest two goals in 10 games since arriving on a season-long loan from Arsenal, but is by far the most established striker at new boss O’Neill’s disposal.
But there is a question mark over the fitness of the Danish hitman, who picked up a groin problem in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Wolves.
O’Neill has not ruled Bendtner out and will make a decision on the 23-year-old closer to Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash with third-bottom Blackburn Rovers.
But Bendtner’s absence would be a blow to O’Neill’s plans, given Sunderland’s well-documented problems in front of goal this season.
“Nicklas has a groin problem and we’ll see how he is towards the weekend,” said O’Neill.
“But if the game was today, he wouldn’t make it as it stands.”
Bendtner’s absence would leave rookies Ji Dong-won and Ryan Noble as the only available strikers at the Northern Irishman’s disposal.
Ji made his first Premier League start at Molineux last weekend while Noble, expected to line up for the reserves against Manchester United at Eppleton CW tonight (7pm), has been limited to two brief substitute appearances this season.
Injured strike pair Connor Wickham and Fraizer Campbell are still several weeks away from being in contention, although Stephane Sessegnon and Kieran Richardson could come into O’Neill’s thinking.
The versatile duo have both been used in central attacking roles this season and can each boast two goals to their name.
Meanwhile, centre-half Michael Turner is also a doubt to face Blackburn after missing the Wolves game with a knock.
The 28-year-old former Hull City defender has been absent from training this week, with former Manchester United duo John O’Shea and Wes Brown likely to continue together in central defence.
O’Neill said: “At this moment, he (Turner) hasn’t trained and I’m not sure (whether he will be fit).
“I’ll leave everything until nearer the end of the week.
“It will be for him to get ready, because he is getting a bit older and it would be nice for him to train for at least part of the week.”