Sunderland lose three key players ahead of Man City visit

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is facing a challenge ahead of the visit of Premier League leaders Man City on New Year’s Day, with three key players absent.

The Shields Gazette is reporting that defenders Phil Bardsley and Titus Bramble, who were both taken off during the Boxing Day draw with Everton with thigh and Achilles injuries respectively, are almost certainly ruled out of the clash. The pair also appear unlikely to feature in Tuesday’s visit to struggling Wigan Athletic. They are to be joined in the medical department by former Man United and England star Kieran Richardson, who has been suffering from a virus this week.

With Michael Turner also absent due to a knee injury, O’Neill is facing an early test in his Sunderland career, admitting fringe players could be brought back to the forefront. He said: “We’re stretched at this minute. Kieran has been ill for the last three or four days. Bardsley and Bramble will be struggling for the game and for Tuesday as well. At this minute, I don’t know if they will be longer.

“That is a major blow to us because they are obviously two players in the defence and we have not got the largest of squads to choose from. It is a concern with Michael Turner out as well. Matt Kilgallon and a number of players who have not played might find themselves playing in the team. In an ideal world, it would be great to have our best defenders available. But if it’s not the case, we will have to make do.”

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