Steve Bruce’s defensive headache is set to continue, with Anton Ferdinand (hamstring) limping off against Fulham last week to join Titus Bramble and Michael Turner (both knee) on the sidelines. Nedum Onuoha moved into the centre of defence to cover after Ferdinand’s injury and is expected to remain at the heart of Sunderland’s defence – though Bruce may opt to bring in Paulo Da Silva with Onuoha reverting to right-back.
Simon Mignolet started last weekend’s game with Craig Gordon missing out with a hamstring injury but Bruce confirmed that the Scot will be back in between the posts against Bolton. More good news for the Black Cats is that Asamoah Gyan trained this week with no problem after a toe injury.
Other absentees for the hosts include Trevor Carson (shoulder), Mathew Kilgallon (back), Andy Reid (hamstring) and Fraizer Campbell (knee).
Possible starting XI: Gordon; Elmohamady, Onuoha, Mensah, Bardsley; Richardson, Cattermole, Henderson, Welbeck; Bent, Gyan.
Mark Davies is serving a one match suspension after being sent off in Bolton’s 2-1 win against Blackburn Rovers and Fabrice Muamba is set to replace him in midfield. Chung-Yong Lee’s departure to the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar has been delayed, but this will be his last appearance for the visitors before the tournament commences.
Ricardo Gardner (knee) is nearing a return to action, but is expected to miss out on the trip to the Stadium of Light. Jlloyd Samuel (calf), Sean Davis (knee) and Joey O’Brien (knee) all remain on the sidelines.
Possible starting XI: Jaaskelainen; Ricketts, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Lee, Muamba, Holden, Petrov; K Davies, Elmander.
Stadium of Light – the Bastille of the North
They take no prisoners at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland have only lost three games in the past 18 months on home soil and are yet to taste defeat in the current campaign – all three defeats have come on their travels. This is despite hosting heavyweights Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United already this term. In fact, only Chelsea have conceded fewer goals at home so far this season.
A win against Bolton would see them leapfrog their rivals into sixth place and start to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom half of the table. Coming off the back of a stalemate against draw specialists Fulham, Bruce will want his side to put on a show for the fans as well as collecting the three points.
Let me entertain you
By all accounts, Bolton have made a fairly decent start to the season – finding themselves in sixth position one game short of the halfway point in the campaign. One thing Bolton can no longer be accused of is being a boring ‘hit and hope’ team, as they’ve well and truly brought goals to the party this season. Since their 0-0 with draw specialists Fulham (see any coincidences?) on opening day, they’ve only failed to score twice in their next 16 games – bagging three or more on four separate occasions.
Their away record isn’t bad either, they’ve only lost twice on the road this season – and those losses came to Arsenal and Manchester City, hardly teams they would be expected to get a result from. However, they’ve also struggled to get wins on the road. Their two wins away from the Reebok Stadium came against relegation candidates West Ham United and Wolves – so Coyle may well be delighted to come away from the Stadium of Light with a point on Saturday. Just don’t expect his team to play for one.