Sunderland’s injury nightmare shows no sign of coming to an end, with Jan Kirchhoff fighting to play again this season.
A recurrence of a knee injury sees the German – whose contract ends this summer – ruled out for a minimum of four weeks, with boss David Moyes hopeful but not certain that he will feature in the closing stages of the Black Cats’ battle against the drop.
Moyes also ominously warned that there could be another blow or two when the teams are announced at 2pm for today’s critical Stadium of Light clash with Burnley.
He said: “We’ve got one or two other injuries around, but I’m keeping my cards close to my chest.”
Further injuries would be a major blow to a side fighting to stay in touch at the bottom of the Premier League. The Wearsiders are six points adrift of safety going into the visit of Sean Dyche’s Clarets.
Moyes can at least hold onto some hope that Victor Anichebe and Lee Cattermole can feature in a crucial April fixture list, with the Nigerian striker currently receiving specialist treatment in America.
Moyes said: “We’ve sent him to work with a specialist in America.
“He should be back very shortly – he comes back this weekend. He’s running and back on it.
“Sending him to someone we thought we could work with him one on one, it looks like it is working.
“My aim is to get Victor back for as much of the month of April as I can. I can’t guarantee that, but we’re doing everything we can.
“Lee Cattermole is back doing some running. With a bit of luck, in a couple of weeks, he could be closer to getting involved. Steven Pienaar is not too far away.”
Kirchhoff’s setback, following a run-out for the Under-23s 12 days ago, leaves Moyes again facing a selection dilemma in midfield.
The Sunderland boss should be able to call upon Jack Rodwell, with Seb Larsson, Didier Ndong and Darron Gibson competing for the other two spots.
One other option for Moyes is to bring Jason Denayer back in front of the back four, in an attempt to prevent his defence being cut open as it was when Burnley outgunned Sunderland 4-1 at Turf Moor on New Year’s Eve.
That defensive midfield position will be a problem long-term with Kirchhoff’s latest blow.
Moyes said: “He had some problems before he came, he had some periods that he missed out. I genuinely think his knee will heal up, it will just take a little more time – and we are running out of time.
“He has been told at the moment that it will be at least another four weeks.
“I don’t know where that takes us to, but it might be too close to the end of the season.
“We might be able to use him in one or two games, but we will have to see.
“I hope it won’t be the end of his season and maybe the international break (Sunderland do not play again until April 1 after today’s match) will give him another chance.”