Goalkeeper Marton Fulop is set to begin an extended run in the Sunderland side as Arsenal visit in the Barclays Premier League.
Fulop is likely to take over from Craig Gordon, who will be out for three months after breaking his arm in the defeat by Tottenham a fortnight ago.
Fraizer Campbell could start up front as Kenwyne Jones sits out the second match of a three-game ban while defender Michael Turner is also suspended.
Midfielder Lorik Cana returns from a ban while John Mensah (calf) and Boudewijn Zenden (hip) are back in contention. Lee Cattermole (knee) is another long-term absentee.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has been delighted with Darren Bent's contribution in recent weeks - but knows the striker has not.
Bent is one of the Barclays Premier League's leading goalscorers this term with eight but has not found the net in his last three club outings.
Bruce expects that will rankle with the 25-year-old, even though the former Tottenham forward is still playing a prominent role.
"He gives you a terrific work ethic, he is a real team player," said Bruce. "If he doesn't score he contributes to the team.
"West Ham, for instance, I thought was arguably his best performance for us. He didn't score but did everything but.
"But a goalscorer like Darren is never happy unless he scores a goal.
"Other centre forwards are happy to contribute and take a big pride in making goals for other people. Darren Bent is single-minded and wants to score a goal.
"I believe he will score because he keeps getting chances. He always has done in his career, so he's not going to stop now."
Arsenal will be without striker Robin van Persie (ankle) and defender Kieran Gibbs (foot), but welcome back England forward Theo Walcott from a knee problem.
Nicklas Bendtner (groin) is not yet match fit, so Croatia marksman Eduardo is likely to lead the attack while veteran defender Mikael Silvestre is set to fill in at left-back.
Midfielder Denilson, Mexican forward Carlos Vela, defender Armand Traore and England Under-21 midfielder Jack Wilshere have all recovered, with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (knee) also close to a comeback, but Abou Diaby (calf), Gael Clichy (back) and Johan Djourou (knee) remain sidelined.
Boss Arsene Wenger knows the importance of securing what would be a seventh win from eight in the Premier League.
"We have a game in hand. If we win that, we can be two points behind Chelsea, and we play them next week," he said.
"But in our job, the most important game is always the next one.
"The game against Chelsea has more significance if we win tomorrow."
Wenger added: "Sunderland are a team with a lot of dynamic, movement and commitment. That is always very difficult to handle.
"It is always a great atmosphere up there and I am highly conscious it will need a great performance from our side to win, but the players are focused."
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms