GUS POYET will turn to Sunderland’s academy to make up the numbers at Manchester City after being hit by a lengthy list of absentees.
The Sunderland head coach has only 17 fit and available first-team players for tonight’s trip to the Etihad Stadium and will be forced to name one member of the Under-21 squad on the bench, while one of the club’s Under-18s has travelled to Manchester in case of further withdrawals.
Long-term casualties Steven Fletcher and Keiren Westwood are on the treatment table, Phil Bardsley is serving the first of his two-game ban after collecting his 10th yellow card of the season against Everton last weekend, while Liam Bridcutt is again missing for personal reasons.
But four other players, including hamstring victim Carlos Cuellar, are missing through injury and illness which has left Poyet facing a depleted squad for the first time during his six-month stint at the Stadium of Light.
Poyet told SportMail: “Injuries come through contact and that is football. But other ones come when there is tension and nerves.
“They all come with tiredness and especially the mental side of things.
“We have gone from having a full squad – with the exception of Westie for the (Capital One Cup) final last month to now having seven or eight players missing.
“That’s normal. It’s nothing against the players, it’s the tension, the nerves and the pressure.
“Fletcher and Westie are out injured, and Liam is out for personal reasons, while Phil is suspended.
“But we also have three or four other injuries, and one ill.
“They have all come together so, for the first time in my time here, we cannot make 18 for the game tonight.
“That’s not the best timing!”
Unlike previous seasons, Sunderland have not been plagued by injuries during the campaign.
Former managers Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill both suffered significantly from key players spending long periods on the treatment table.
Neither Paolo Di Canio nor Poyet have endured such problems this season, although that is little comfort to the Sunderland boss, with the Black Cats rock bottom of the Premier League table.
“From all these injuries, there isn’t one that is a bad muscle injury,” added Poyet.
“It’s more tendinitis, or a bad back or something like that.
“The medical staff and our fitness coach Antonio Pintus have done a fantastic job.
“But I would have preferred a few more injuries and a few more wins!”
One player who is back in the fold though is Jozy Altidore after the American international missed the Everton defeat with a slight knock.