A hip injury has made Billy Jones a major doubt for tomorrow’s visit of Manchester United, even if the right-back’s starting spot was already in jeopardy.
Jones has suffered a dip in form over recent weeks with several notable errors, including being caught in possession for Liverpool’s second goal in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Anfield.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce had been eager to boost his ranks with the capture of a new right-back in the January transfer window, but saw moves for the likes of Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy and Lorient’s Lamine Gassama hit a brick wall.
Allardyce has Spurs loanee DeAndre Yedlin and £2million summer capture Adam Matthews as alternatives to Jones, but the ex-West Brom man is the only one with any significant Premier League experience.
But with Jones struggling with injury, Allardyce is likely to be forced into a change for the lunchtime clash against fifth-placed United.
“Billy has got a hip problem, but we’ll wait until today to see whether he’s recovered from that or not,” said Allardyce.
“There’s no hiding the fact that we looked for that position (in January).
“But that should spur the lads on who are in that position.
“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.
“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”
Fabio Borini has returned from illness to face United, albeit Allardyce has caught the Italian’s flu.
But after a virtually unscathed squad at the start of 2016, Jones is now one of several injury concerns facing Allardyce.
Duncan Watmore suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in last weekend’s draw at Liverpool after the 21-year-old was forced off before half-time.
And Jeremain Lens – who missed the Liverpool game entirely – is struggling with a suspected hernia and will require surgery, although his lay-off is not expected to be a lengthy one.
Younes Kaboul is definitely out of tomorrow’s game after twisting his ankle last week, although the centre-half could return for the trip to West Ham in a fortnight.
“The injury to Younes Kaboul was a big blow because we’d got him fit,” added Allardyce.
“This is a different area, he twisted an ankle in training which was extremely difficult for him to take after building himself up from the hamstring injury he got at Chelsea.
“We hope that’s not going to be too long.
“Duncan Watmore is again ankle ligaments, which look a bit more serious than Younes’s.
“Jeremain Lens hasn’t recovered like we thought he would, so we’ve got a clinical diagnosis to make.
“The physios think it’s a hernia, but that can be repaired very quickly today though and be recovered in 10-14 days.
“If that’s the case, we’ll get that done.
“We do after two weeks with no game after Manchester United, so that helps with the recovery of injuries.
“Come West Ham, hopefully some of these players will be back.
“Fabio has recovered from his illness and given it to me!
“I’m quite happy to take that off him.”