Sunderland dealt fresh injury blow with THREE key players now sidelined
Jack Ross has been handed a fresh blow with the news that three key players will be forced to sit out the Checkatrade Trophy clash with Carlisle United.
Josh Maja, Lee Cattermole and Jerome Sinclair are all set to miss the visit of the Cumbrians - meaning that Sunderland will be without FOURTEEN first team players for the group stage game.
A combination of injuries, suspensions and international call-ups mean Ross' squad is down to its bare bones, with several under-23 players expected to feature in the squad tomorrow evening.
The latest injury blows were confirmed by Ross at his pre-match press conference, but the omissions of Maja and Cattermole in particular seem to be merely precautionary.
In-form Maja is set to miss out with an ankle problem which he has been nursing for several weeks, while Cattermole is set to be rested after a gruelling run of fixtures.
Speaking on the absence of the trio, Ross said: "Jerome has a slight hamstring problem from Saturday, Josh has had an ongoing ankle problem and to his credit has still been playing.
"Lee, it is just a maintenance one, he put a lot of effort into Saturday as well."
While Sunderland's options may be stretched for the Carlisle game, the lack of a fixture this weekend gives the Black Cats time to boost their numbers.
International call-ups saw the game with Blackpool scheduled for Saturday postponed, meaning that Ross will not have to try and hurry back players for a Saturday fixture.
But in the short-term, the Sunderland boss says that the lack of available options means his squad for the cup game will likely pick itself.
"In terms of first players, we have 10 or 11 available, the rest will be U23 players. A lot of the stronger 23 players are out on loan.
"The positive to us being stretched is that we don't have a game on Saturday."
"We are so stretched because players are away on international duty, suspended or injured.
"There is a real mix why players are unavailable. We have 10/11 first-team players available.
"The team that will play is pretty much the one that can play!"