Sunderland Vs Fulham, Sun 28 Feb 2010

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Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole will return from suspension for Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Fulham.

The 21-year-old missed last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Arsenal after being sent off at Portsmouth. David Meyler, who was dismissed during the same game, still has two more matches to serve.

Manager Steve Bruce is otherwise only without Andy Reid (hamstring) and Jordan Henderson (ankle), and they could both be back in business within 10 days.

Lee Cattermole is convinced a run of four successive home games could have Sunderland fans looking to Europe again rather than fearing relegation.

The Black Cats headed into the weekend sitting just three points clear of the drop zone and knowing their plight could have worsened

by the time they run out to face Fulham.

However, the vagaries of the fixture list mean Bolton, Manchester City and Birmingham will follow Roy Hodgson's men to Wearside before Sunderland head out on to the road again, and that run of games could have a significant say in the outcome of a troubled campaign.

A season which began with such promise has dwindled away to the point where a sequence of 13 league matches without a win has prompted talk of a fight against relegation, and an overdue turn-around cannot come quickly enough.

Asked about the "R-word", 21-year-old midfielder Cattermole said: "People do mention it, but I don't like to talk about it.

"We know the position we are in. We were on a bit of a bad run, but we stopped it with three games unbeaten and it's not too bad.

"I think those three points will prove to be massive towards the end of the season.

"Once you put a couple of wins together, people start talking about Europe. It's ridiculous how quickly things can change.

"We have just got to keep doing things well during the week on the training pitch and take them into the game on a Saturday."

Bobby Zamora is doubtful for Fulham's trip.

The 15-goal striker limped out of Thursday night's Europa League success at Shakhtar Donetsk with an Achilles tendon injury.

Boss Roy Hodgson will consider making changes after a gruelling trip to Ukraine and can welcome back defender Nicky Shorey and forward Stefano Okaka, who were both cup-tied.

But Hodgson's small squad is stretched with Paul Konchesky (ankle) still struggling and Andrew Johnson, Clint Dempsey and John Pantsil (all knee) sidelined.

Under Hodgson, Fulham are enjoying unprecedented success with Thursday's epic 1-1 draw at Shakhtar earning them a Europa League last-16 tie against Italian giants Juventus.

The Cottagers also have an FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham to look forward to, while they have recovered from a recent four-game losing streak to once again sit comfortably in the top half of the Premier League.

And Duff is full of praise for the job Hodgson has done since taking over at Craven Cottage just over two years ago.

"It's not so long ago, January, that we had an horrendous month and people were writing us off so it's credit to the gaffer and the lads that we bounced back," added Duff.

"It's exciting times for a club which two years ago just escaped from relegation on the last day, so we've come a long way since then.

"The gaffer has come in and done brilliantly ever since.

"We have a small squad but when anyone comes in to do a job, they do great. And with a top manager, working with him every day is going to pay off."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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