Skipper Lee Cattermole and record signing Asamoah Gyan are major doubts for Sunderland's Barclays Premier League clash with Blackburn.
Midfielder Cattermole is struggling once again with a back-related hamstring problem which hampered last season, while Gyan suffered a hamstring injury during Tuesday's 2-0 home defeat by Blackpool.
Defender Nedum Onuoha is likely to miss out with a similar problem, but Titus Bramble, who played almost an hour of Tuesday's game as a substitute, is available after getting further action under his belt in a behind-closed-doors friendly with Gateshead yesterday, while Danny Welbeck (neck) is also expected to be fit.
John Mensah (ankle) remains a week away from a return, but Michael Turner and Fraizer Campbell (both knee) are still on the casualty list.
Manager Steve Bruce did not know whether to laugh or cry as he celebrated his 50th birthday with his side sitting in seventh place.
The former Manchester United defender could scarcely believe it as he reached his personal landmark, although preparations for Blackburn were his overwhelming focus.
Bruce's young side has enjoyed a fine first half of the season with a stunning 3-0 victory at Chelsea just about cancelling out the memories of an horrific 5-1 derby defeat at Newcastle.
But for a shock 2-0 home defeat by Blackpool on Tuesday, the Black Cats could have been in an even healthier position, and Bruce is hoping for more of the same in 2011.
He said: "We could have been because we had a magnificent chance against Blackpool, and anybody witnessing the game would have said how the hell have we not won that?
"But we didn't. It could have got us into a fabulous position - 30 points going into the New Year's Day fixture would have been a fantastic achievement.
"If you can double that, if you can do exactly the same in the second half and get to 60 points, you are there or thereabouts to be where we are at the moment in the league, usually anyway.
"That's the challenge to us now - can we go and repeat it?"
Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson is set to be sidelined for the next three weeks after aggravating a calf injury in his side's 3-1 win at West Brom on Tuesday.
The former England number one had to be replaced by Mark Bunn at the Hawthorns and is also expected to miss games against Liverpool, QPR and Chelsea.
Striker Nikola Kalinic is suspended for the next three matches following his sending-off against the Baggies, while manager Steve Kean expects to be able to recall Christopher Samba following an ankle problem.
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