Jack Ross has eyes on extending Sunderland’s winning run and their chances have been boosted with Southend United’s top scorer a major doubt.
Tom Hopper, who has scored seven goals and provided two assists this season, suffered a knee injury during their 3-0 win against Walsall.
Shrimpers boss Chris Powell is sweating on the full extent of the injury but has already conceded he is unlikely to be involved at the Stadium of Light.
“I don’t know exactly what will happen but he looked OK on Tuesday evening after the game. Until we get the scan results I can’t really comment but he was walking about.
“Hopefully he has just tweaked his knee and it’s something that won’t be long term.”
Hopper could be replaced in attack by Simon Cox who has completed a one match suspension. Southend will be backed by more than 1,000 away supporters.
“It’s another test for us and one we know that will be tricky, but actually it’s a game that should inspire us,” added Powell.
“We’re going to a place which has seen Premier League football. They’re trying to re-build themselves as a football club but as I say to the players bring it on and let’s get on with it.”
Sunderland head into the game looking to extend their six-game unbeaten run, with the Black Cats winning their last three games on the road and achieving back-to-back clean sheets at Shrewsbury Town and Doncaster Rovers.
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Ross said: “The belief is strengthening within the group and it’s taken time to adjust to the challenges of League One having the absolute target of winning the league this season.
“I think we’re all there now, so now we’ve put together this recent run and this record over the course of the season, we don’t want to give up these things lightly.
“We have another challenging fixture – just because we’re at home, it doesn’t make the fixture any easier than the ones we have faced in the last three games.
“Southend are a team who are having a good season to date and whose recent form is very good in terms of the last six games. We know it’s a tough match for us.
“Each and every team that has come to the Stadium of Light has produced good performances, so to do that again on Saturday means we have to play well to win the game.”