ADAM Johnson is unlikely to be risked against MK Dons tonight as Martin O’Neill looks to ring the changes but still put out a side strong enough to overcome League One high-fliers MK Dons.
The ex-Manchester City winger has played once for Sunderland since his £10m move last month, producing a man-of-the-match performance as Morecambe were defeated 2-0 in the previous round of the Capital One Cup.
But a thigh injury has sidelined him for weeks now and although it is possible he could play tonight, the club is more likely to allow him a final few days recuperation so he can be confident of starting in the Premier League game against Wigan Athletic this Saturday.
O’Neill said: “The situation with Adam Johnson has been a wee bit frustrating.
“He did a bit of training with us last Thursday but didn’t really feel great.
“He did a little bit on Friday too but he thinks the extra week will stand him in good stead, so we’ll see how he is.
“We gave him the weekend off because the masseurs and physio were working with him, and we’ll see how he goes on from there.
“I don’t want people thinking I’ve sprung a surprise if he plays in the cup, but there would have to be an improvement.”
As well as Johnson’s absence, Sunderland are likely to be without Fraizer Campbell and Seb Larsson through injury, while Titus Bramble is likely and Simon Mignolet almost certain, to be rested.
Campbell received a foot injury at the end of the West Ham game which forced his substitution while Seb Larsson was withdrawn earlier suffering from a tight hamstring.
On top of that, O’Neill is likely to want to give run-outs to Keiren Westwood and Matt Kigallon, which would give Mignolet and Bramble the night off.
And he might be tempted to take star striker Steven Fletcher out of the firing line to hand either Louis Saha or Connor Wickham an opportunity.
O’Neill said: “We have a couple of players who are struggling with injuries at the moment, so we’ll have to make changes – they’ll be forced upon us.
“Campbell and Larsson for a start and maybe Titus Bramble who might find it difficult to play three games in a week but that’s our problem.
“It will be a difficult game for us but I would like to try and stay in the competition if we can.
“We looked pretty strong against Morecambe, but things will be forced on us on Tuesday.”
O’Neill is the first to recognise that an in-form MK Dons on their home turf will be no walkover for Sunderland.
And for that reason, whatever changes he might make this evening, he will be determined to put out a very strong side; a side with a real Premier League look to it, which he feels confident can take the Black Cats into the next round.
Sunderland have sold more than 2,000 tickets for the game at stadium:mk.
O’Neill added: “It’s a cup competition we would like to stay in having put on a decent performance against Morecambe a couple of weeks ago with a pretty strong side. I wouldn’t want to bow out meekly.
“Milton Keynes have nothing to lose and they want to play against a Barclays Premier League side. The possibility of winning the game must have given them a major lift.
“From our own viewpoint, I will reiterate that we will be as strong as we possibly can be.”