Sunderland boss Lee Johnson will turn to his big guns once again as he prepares for Saturday’s League One clash with Oxford.
Johnson rested 10 of the men who started last weekend’s 2-1 win at Cambridge for the Papa John’s Trophy defeat by Oldham in midweek, with only Leon Dajaku retaining his place.
Defender Arbenit Xhemajli ended his 14-month absence with a knee injury in that game, but will be eased back towards the first-team squad, which continues to be significantly depleted, with Dennis Cirkin (hernia) and Corry Evans (knee) the closest to returning, although not until later this month.
Denver Hume (ankle) and Niall Huggins (back) are a little further behind, while Aiden McGeady (knee) and Luke O’Nien (shoulder) face lengthy lay-offs and Jordan Willis (also knee) is not expected to play again this season.
Oxford head coach Karl Robinson will run the rule over his returning Covid absentees before he names his team.
Robinson had only 13 outfield players from which to select ahead of Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Rotherham following a coronavirus outbreak within the squad, with Simon Eastwood, Anthony Forde, Elliott Moore, John Mousinho, Mark Sykes, Matty Taylor and Jordan Thorniley all isolating, and although those missing are now back in training, some are more advanced in their recovery than others.
The U’s have a particular issue in the goalkeeping department after emergency loan signing Connal Trueman’s return to Birmingham, with Eastwood training, but Jack Stevens working his way back to full fitness after a bout of glandular fever.
Ryan Williams missed out against the Millers with a thigh problem, while Alex Gorrin is sidelined by knee ligament damage.
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