Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is anxiously awaiting news of George McCartney's hamstring injury amid speculation the defender could be sidelined for up to six weeks.
McCartney damaged the hamstring in training on Friday ahead of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier in Poland, and missed that game.
He remains a major doubt for Wednesday's clash with Slovakia, and there are fears on Wearside that a man who has a history of similar problems could be out of action for several weeks.
That would represent a serious blow to Bruce as well as the 28-year-old, who is the club's only recognised senior left-back.
Danny Collins, a centre-half who played much of his football for the Black Cats at left-back, was allowed to join Barclays Premier League rivals Stoke as the transfer window drew to a close last week, and the club's efforts to lure Wigan's Maynor Figueroa to the north-east came to nothing.
Youngster Michael Liddle is injured as well as inexperienced, and Bruce may have to be creative as he looks for a replacement.
Right-back Phil Bardsley has played on the left before, as has central defender John Mensah, a loan signing from Lyon, although that might be a big ask for the new arrival.
Alternatively, Bruce has competition for places on the left of midfield with Kieran Richardson and Andy Reid, although both men are better known for what they do going in the other direction.
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