Jack Rodwell is in Sam Allardyce’s thinking for tonight’s crunch visit of out-of-form Crystal Palace.
But the Sunderland boss will not necessarily chance his arm on a more attack-minded starting XI, despite the Black Cats’ desperate need to inflict an eighth Premier League defeat in nine on Alan Pardew’s Palace side.
Rodwell failed to convert two clear-cut opportunities in last weekend’s defeat at West Ham, yet the £10million man provided a better balance to Sunderland’s central midfield trio after bridging the gap with lone striker Jermain Defoe.
Allardyce is keeping coy over his selection plans for tonight’s Stadium of Light encounter, but admits Rodwell is in the frame, albeit the Sunderland boss believes clean sheets still have to be the priority for the Premier League’s second bottom side.
“He (Rodwell) comes into my thinking, yes,” Allardyce said.
“We (Allardyce and his staff) had a long chat yesterday and another look at Crystal Palace to decide if there needed to be any changes to the starting XI.
“But I still think the emphasis on our lads is to keep more clean sheets.
“It was a good performance on Saturday and there was disappointment about not taking the chances, but if we’d got a 0-0, we’d have got another point on the board.
“We’ve failed on that so often since I’ve been here.
“If we get sucked into the more attacking element against Crystal Palace, they’ll hit you on the counter-attack and punish you.”
Despite Allardyce’s note of caution, he admits tonight’s encounter looks on paper to be a more ‘winnable’ game than Saturday’s trip to seventh placed Southampton after 15 of Sunderland’s 23 points this season have come at the Stadium of Light,
However, Sunderland’s players face a test of nerve after the loss at West Ham left the Black Cats camp ruing a huge opportunity to improve their plight in the relegation dogfight.
“It’s more likely that the win will come from this one, based on where our results have come from this season,” added Allardyce.
“More have come at home than they have away.
“But that adds more pressure as we move into the final quarter of the season.
“We’ve got to be able to withstand the pressure and deliver. That’s the simple fact.
“Performances are an indicator that we can win games, so let’s hope the lads can keep their nerve and keep performing at that level.”