Sunderland Vs Wigan Athletic, Sat 6 Feb 2010

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Sunderland new-boy Alan Hutton could be handed a debut in the Barclays Premier League clash with Wigan.

The Scot is in line to take over at right-back with Phil Bardsley and John Mensah, the man who played in his place against Stoke on Monday night, both struggling with hamstring injuries.

There could be a place in the squad too for fellow new arrival Benjani Mwaruwari while Michael Turner and Lee Cattermole have suffered no reaction to their respective returns to action.

The game is likely to come too soon for Kieran Richardson (calf) while Anton Ferdinand remains on the sidelines with his ankle problem and Nyron Nosworthy.

David Healy and Daryl Murphy have been allowed to leave the club on loan.

Steve Bruce is convinced victory over Wigan could turn Sunderland's season around as they battle to end a dismal run of results.

The Black Cats entertain Bruce's former club knowing extending a run of 10 Barclays Premier League games without a victory could plunge them into relegation trouble, something which would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.

Sunderland have collected just four from a possible 30 points since the day they confirmed their impressive start to the campaign with a home victory over Arsenal on November 21 and they now sit just three points clear of the drop zone.

Bruce, who nevertheless enjoys the continued support of the Wearside hierarchy, admits times are tough but is confident redemption is at hand.

He said: "It's not easy, the situation, but I do think you do become a better manager if you survive it and I am absolutely convinced we can get the right result and turn our season around again. We are getting to the nitty-gritty party of the season and I am very, very confident we can get a win and we can turn it around.

"However, it must come quickly, there's no hiding from that. Just like we had a wonderful start, we have had a dismal run and we have got to address it and hopefully get the victory which will send everyone on their way."

New signing Victor Moses will be in the squad for Wigan's trip north.

The striker completed a move from Crystal Palace on transfer deadline day but Marcelo Moreno, who joined on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk until the end of the season, is still awaiting international clearance and is unlikely to be included.

Captain Mario Melchiot has not trained all week because of a neck problem and faces a late fitness test but goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is still recovering from a collarbone injury so Vladimir Stojkovic will continue to deputise.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will not allow the match at Sunderland to become a personal battle against opposite number Bruce as there are more important issues at stake.

Bruce left the Latics in the summer after being lured by the greater finances and supposed better prospects on offer at the Stadium of Light.

However, the former Manchester United defender has found life tough in his native north east with the Black Cats.

Martinez is in a similar situation, with his side two points behind the Black Cats having won only one in eight league games having been restricted to considerably less out-lay in the transfer market.

Martinez said: "It is a huge game. If you look at the positions in the table they have played a game more than us but are two points ahead. That shows you the importance of three points on Saturday. Sunderland are a little low on confidence and have found it difficult to get results recently.

"We need to make sure we don't get affected because it is not about who is the manager, it is about the importance of the game and the points. There are too many important issues to look into any individuals connected to both clubs."

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