Sunderland’s training ground deserted ahead of Arsenal clash

INTERNATIONAL DUTY ... Sunderland's James McClean.
INTERNATIONAL DUTY ... Sunderland's James McClean.

MARTIN O’Neill says Sunderland’s match preparations will not be helped by the loss of so many of the first-team squad to international duty this week.

The Black Cats – who face Arsenal at home on Saturday – have 11 players away representing their countries.

It means that training at the Academy of Light this week for the rest of the squad will be a challenge for the coaching staff, with just a handful of players in the North East this week.

“It is difficult,” O’Neill said. “We have a word with the players before they head away on international duty, but it is not easy.

“It isn’t quite so bad if the players have won a game before the international break, but if they’ve lost a game, you really want to be working with them during the week.

“It’s far from ideal for us, and I’ve welcomed talk of not holding so many friendly internationals during the course of subsequent seasons.

“But the one thing that you can’t deny is that it is pretty much the same for the majority of clubs in the Premier League – we aren’t the only one in the position of having so many players away.”

Sunderland have a trio of players involved in the Republic of Ireland’s game against Poland tomorrow with James McClean, John O’Shea and Keiren Westwood all expected to featured in the game at the Aviva Stadium.

Seb Larsson is expected to start in the game against Argentina in Solna the same night, and David Vaughan will hope to be involved in Wales’s game against Austria in Swansea.

Phil Bardsley has a chance of playing in Scotland’s home game against Estonia, and Simon Mignolet will be taking part in Belgium’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.