Sunderland sweating on midfield pair for Wear-Tyne derby

Ola Toivonen.
Ola Toivonen.
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Sunderland are sweating on the fitness of midfield pair Ola Toivonen and Jack Rodwell ahead of next weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby.

Both Toivonen and Rodwell missed Sam Allardyce’s opening game in charge at West Brom on Saturday due to injury, with fellow midfielder Liam Bridcutt returning to the matchday squad for the first time since the opening day after being out-of-favour under Dick Advocaat.

Toivonen sustained a groin problem while on international duty with Sweden last week and, as expected, did not recover sufficiently in time to face the Baggies.

Rodwell, meanwhile, has been struggling with an ankle injury for several weeks.

They are Allardyce’s main injury concerns heading into Sunday’s clash against fellow strugglers Newcastle, although youngster Duncan Watmore is also likely to remain on the sidelines.

Watmore had been due to be part of the Sunderland squad that travelled to The Hawthorns, but he missed out due to a minor hamstring problem which saw him undergo a scan on Friday.

The England Under-21 international is not expected to be on the treatment table for a significant period, but Sunderland are being cautious over the 21-year-old.

However, Allardyce’s squad will be boosted by the return of two players for the derby, with Sebastian Coates and Jeremain Lens available again after one-match bans.

Meanwhile, Allardyce still needs to appoint a new assistant, with U21 coach Robbie Stockdale taking Sunderland’s warm-up prior to the defeat at West Brom.

Allardyce’s former assistants Phil Brown and Neil McDonald have both distanced themselves with the chance to rejoin him at the Stadium of Light after becoming managers in League One.

Ex-Sunderland boss Peter Reid is thought to be keen on returning to Wearside alongside Allardyce.

But Reid was not among the names that Allardyce was considering last week.