GUS POYET faced a conundrum back in December when he fretted over how to squeeze Lee Cattermole and Ki Sung-Yueng into the same starting XI.
As it turned out, moving Ki higher up the field was an inspired move, with the South Korean shining in that advanced role, while Cattermole was happy to sit in front of the back four.
But when it comes to Cattermole v Liam Bridcutt as the holding midfielder, it looks odds-on to be a case one or the other, rather than compromising with both in the side.
It promises to be an intriguing battle.
Sunderland showed admirable ambition on transfer deadline day by ultimately opting to veto Cattermole’s proposed £5million sale to Stoke City in the belief that the Teessider can play a crucial role in the Black Cats’ relegation battle.
Yet Bridcutt is the player Poyet spent the entire January transfer window chasing and clearly has huge admiration for the former Brighton man. Handing the 24-year-old an instant debut in the Tyne-Wear derby was evidence of that.
Despite being thrown in at the deep end for his Premier League bow at St James’s Park though, Bridcutt is fully aware that he will face a fight for his place once Cattermole recovers from the calf injury which kept him out last weekend.
Bridcutt said: “It will definitely be a good battle with him.
“I wasn’t expecting to come in and play straightaway.
“But I’m here to fight for my shirt and that’s what I’m looking to do.”
It’s difficult to envisage Poyet not giving Bridcutt a sustained chance to shine in the top flight though after enjoying such a profitable working relationship with the former Chelsea trainee at Brighton.
After Bridcutt helped knock Newcastle out of the FA Cup last January, Poyet even claimed that the midfielder was good enough to play for Real Madrid.
And Bridcutt admits that being reunited with Poyet at the Stadium of Light was one of the main factors in his eagerness to seal his £2.5million switch to Wearside.
“Gus gave me loads of opportunities at Brighton,” he added.
“He’s helped me out throughout my career. He gave me the chance to make a name for myself.
“He saw my potential and thought I could play a key part here and I have to thank him for the opportunity.”