EMANUELE Giaccherini is a late fitness worry for Sunderland on the eve of Arsenal’s visit to the Stadium of Light.
The Italian winger returned to the Academy from international duty this week with a tight hamstring and faces a late fitness test ahead of the glamour game against the Gunners tomorrow.
But the Black Cats have been boosted by midfielder Craig Gardner’s return to full fitness and there has also been positive progress with the fitness of Steven Fletcher, Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown.
Head coach Paolo Di Canio told the Echo: “Giaccherini is our only real concern.
“He came back feeling his hamstring and it’s something we have to be careful with.
“It is not serious, but, at the same time, we don’t want to take a risk with it and we will leave it as late as we can before making a decision on whether or not he plays.”
Should Giaccherini be unavailable, his place is likely to be taken by young Greek winger Charis Mavrias.
Gardner’s return will provide competition for Ondrej Celustka at right-back and an option for the head coach in the centre of midfield.
But Cattermole will not be contesting a place in the centre of the park this weekend, just as Brown will not be trying to benefit from the absence of the suspended John O’Shea.
Di Canio said: “Cattermole is back in full training and Wes Brown returned yesterday – which is good news for both of them – but it is too early for them to be considered for this weekend’s game.
Fletcher, though, will come very much into contention after stepping up his efforts in training at the Academy over the last couple of weeks.
And although his chances of finishing tomorrow’s game are slim, the Scot – on target as a substitute on his return to action at Crystal Palace a fortnight ago – is likely to be handed his first start of the season against Arsenal.
The other decision facing the manager is who replaces the suspended John O’Shea, who sustained a minor foot injury on international duty for the Republic of Ireland this week.
The Italian will have to choose between Valentin Roberge and Carlos Cuellar in central defence alongside Modibo Diakite.