Coates illness may force Sunderland to revert to 4-3-3

Sebastian Coates
Sebastian Coates

Sam Allardyce is likely to revert to a 4-3-3 set-up at Chelsea tomorrow, if Sebastian Coates is ruled out through illness.

Allardyce’s plans were disrupted when Younes Kaboul pulled out on the eve of last weekend’s visit of Watford, and while the French international is now available, the Sunderland boss has another central defender on his sick-bed, with Coates a major doubt to face Chelsea.

With Kaboul missing and no other senior central defender available, Allardyce abandoned the three-at-the-back system which had proved successful for Sunderland over previous weeks after just 20 minutes against the Hornets, in favour of a 4-3-3 formation.

And after seeing that produce an improvement last Saturday – albeit without Sunderland managing to register an equaliser – Allardyce is likely to begin the game in that fashion at Stamford Bridge.

When asked if he would start with 4-3-3, Allardyce said: “Probably, because, looking at last Saturday without Younes, it (three at the back) didn’t work as well.

“I had to change it after 20 minutes to stabilise it.

“Younes is back, but whether Seb makes it or not, we’ll have to wait and see.

“But lots of clubs have got more injuries than we have.

“Our responsibility is to get better than we were last week and we certainly have to do that at Chelsea.”

Midfield pair Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole remain on the treament table, with the latter expected to be the first of the duo to be available again. But Allardyce is wary of naming a target date for Cattermole’s return, with Sunderland ensuring that the Teessider is fully fit after suffering a recurrence of his back problem.

“I expect Lee will be back before Seb, but I don’t like timescales,” added Allardyce.

“We seem to have that infatuation at football clubs where we have to say he’s going to be out this long or that long.

“Each individual is different.

“I’ve had a player with a grade one out for six weeks and another one out for five days.

“It’s an individual thing. We tend to always want to put labels on it.”