Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley return to the Sunderland squad for the Barclays Premier League clash with Aston Villa.

The pair missed Saturday's disappointing 1-1 home draw with lowly Portsmouth through suspension, but are both available again as the Black Cats look for just their second league win in eight attempts.

Striker Kenwyne Jones is expected to shake off a shoulder problem picked up at the weekend, while midfielder Lee Cattermole is back in training after a medial ligament injury and could play for the reserves at Hartlepool on Wednesday.

John Mensah (calf) has also returned to training, but Bolo Zenden (hamstring), Anton Ferdinand (ankle) and Craig Gordon (broken arm) remain on the sidelines.

Villa will arrive on Wearside with the Black Cats having won just one of their last seven league games - they conceded an injury-time equaliser at home to lowly Portsmouth on Saturday to surrender two points at the death - amid an injury and suspension crisis.

However, Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson are available after disciplinary bans and Lee Cattermole, whose absence since the middle of October with a medial ligament injury has proved significant, could return to reserve team action on Wednesday.

Bruce said: "We have been unfortunate. We have had serious injuries and big suspensions which have obviously over the last few weeks hampered us a bit, but there you go.

"But we are trying to get them all back and we will be better when we do get them all back."

Left-back Stephen Warnock is Aston Villa's main injury concern.

Warnock suffered a neck injury and was substituted during the second half of Saturday's 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Luke Young could switch flanks to replace him with Carlos Cuellar moving from the middle to right-back and James Collins earning a recall at centre-half alongside Richard Dunne.

Boss Martin O'Neill is aware Sunderland will provide a tough test at the Stadium of Light and Villa needed penalties to win the Carling Cup tie between the clubs at the same venue last month.

He said: "We won on penalties in the Carling Cup and last season we did very well to win the league game. We came from behind to win.

"But it will be difficult, no question about that and Sunderland are strong.

"They've had one or two hiccups away from home but overall they are very, very strong at home and obviously I'm pretty concerned about the game. There is just no respite.

"Confidence is pretty good and I think naturally if you go to places like Old Trafford and Anfield and win, certainly that can only be a major confidence boost.

"But again that can be eroded pretty quickly."

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Topics:
#Sunderland
#Football
#Lee Cattermole
#John Mensah
#Anton Ferdinand
#Kenwyne Jones
#Premier League
#Carlos Cuellar
#Luke Young
#Stephen Warnock
#Richard Dunne
#James Collins
#Aston Villa
#Kieran Richardson
#Craig Gordon