GUS Poyet insists Sunderland have needed to take a cautious approach with fit-again flair pair Emanuele Giaccherini and Ricky Alvarez.
Giaccherini and Alvarez both started Sunday’s FA Cup third round victory against Leeds after impressing as substitutes in last week’s defeat at reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.
It was a first start for Giaccherini since returning from almost three months on the sidelines, and only a second for Alvarez, who similarly spent two months on the treatment table through injury.
Neither lasted the duration against Leeds at the weekend, with on-loan Inter Milan midfielder Alvarez replaced at half-time through illness and Italian international Giaccherini coming off midway through the second half.
But with Poyet eager to harness the creative abilities of the duo over the second half of the campaign, Sunderland have been wary of rushing them back into action.
“This situation was all planned,” said Poyet.
“We were trying to make sure Giaccy was coming back in a nice way and growing into the 90 minutes.
“Most of the players run for fun when they’re injured, but the game is totally different.
“The same applies to Ricky. They’ve been out for a while.
“You get fit to play football, but you don’t get match fitness, except if you play.
“The Leeds game was a good one for both of them to participate a little bit longer.”
Both Giaccherini and Alvarez will come into the reckoning for Saturday’s visit of Liverpool, as Sunderland bid for only a second home Premier League win of the campaign.
With Patrick van Aanholt returning against Leeds and Anthony Reveillere back in training yesterday, Poyet’s options have improved markedly.
The big injury concerns for Poyet are midfielders Jack Rodwell and Lee Cattermole.
Rodwell came off as a precaution against Leeds, although he should be fit to face Liverpool.
But Cattermole is thought to be a major doubt for Saturday, with Sunderland due to learn today the extent of his groin injury.