Sunderland weigh up swoop for Champions League defender

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Sunderland are tracking French left-back Arthur Masuaku, as Sam Allardyce looks for January recruits who can keep the club in the Premier League.

The Black Cats’ plight in the relegation battle looks increasingly bleak after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Southampton left them four points adrift of safety heading into the international break.

Allardyce will consider any potential signings in the New Year who he feels will improve the Sunderland squad, but defensive recruits will inevitably be high on the agenda after just one clean sheet all season.

Olympiakos full-back Masuaku is one name on Sunderland’s shortlist after Black Cats scouts watched the 22-year-old in action during the Greek club’s Champions League win over Dynamo Zagreb last week.

Masuaku – who joined Olympiakos from French side Valenciennes 18 months ago – has been watched by Serie A heavyweights Inter, Juventus and Roma over recent months.

Roma were in talks over a possible transfer in the summer, but sources in Greece have indicated that Sunderland are keen on a January deal for the former France Under-19 international, who is under contract at Olympiakos until the summer of 2018.

Patrick van Aanholt is the only specialist left-back in Sunderland’s squad, but the Dutchman – who has made a series of costly mistakes this season – has made just one start under Allardyce and that was in a more advanced wing-back position.

Despite Sunderland making eight signings during the summer, Allardyce wants fresh blood in January, albeit the Black Cats are also likely to move players on.

Danny Graham, Adam Matthews, Seb Larsson and Liam Bridcutt were all left out of the squad at the weekend, with Leeds still hoping to sign the latter on a two-month loan deal.

“I spoke to Liam on Friday night and the conversation went extremely well,” said Leeds boss Steve Evans.

Sunderland’s fortunes will need to improve dramatically before January though, if any fresh faces are going to make an impact in keeping the club in the Premier League after a third defeat in four during Allardyce’s reign.

Allardyce said: “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, there’s no doubt about that.

“I challenged myself. I could have stayed relaxing in Dubai if I wanted to, but I decided that the challenge was worth taking.

“I didn’t feel that great on Saturday, but I’ll pick myself up and come back refreshed and pick the lads up.

“Hopefully, the players will eventually have belief in themselves to go out and improve results.”