The Royals are one of the league’s in-form sides having taken three wins and a draw from their last five games, with the only defeat coming at Tottenham Hotspur after taking an early lead at White Hart Lane. Indeed, Adam Le Fondre’s late double to claw back a point against Chelsea in midweek has taken Brian McDermott’s men out of the relegation zone, albeit only on goal-difference, ahead of Wigan and Aston Villa.
McDermott is sweating on the fitness of striker Noel Hunt, who may undergo a fitness test due to the knock that kept him out of the draw with the European champions. Elsewhere, Le Fondre is pushing for a starting role after scoring scoring five times in the Royal’s last three league games. Jason Roberts is still out with a thigh injury.
Sunderland have been in good league form themselves of late, with seven points from the last nine available taking them from relegation trouble to the brink of the top half. Martin O’Neill may give a debut to deadline-day signing Danny Graham alongside Steven Fletcher, with Stephane Sessegnon moving back into midfield.
The Black Cats are hopeful on Carlos Cuellar and Danny Rose returning to the starting XI after hamstring injuries but Lee Cattermole remains absent with a knee injury.