Sunderland Vs Blackpool, Tue 28 Dec 2010

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Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has urged his players to bounce back from their mauling at Manchester United to set up an exciting conclusion to the season.

A depleted Black Cats side went down 2-0 at Old Trafford as United maintained their place at the top of the Barclays Premier League table, although the margin of victory did not start to tell the story of the home side's dominance.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men won at a canter as injuries, suspension and ineligibility cut a swathe through opposite number Bruce's resources.

It is testament to the character of the men the former United defender was able to field that they did not leave the red half of Manchester on the wrong end of a drubbing.

However, seventh-placed Sunderland have an early opportunity to make amends from what was only their fourth league defeat of the season when Blackpool head for the Stadium of Light.

Only West Ham have won on Wearside to date this season, and that was in the Carling Cup, and while Ian Holloway's men will arrive refreshed having not played since December 11 because of the weather, Bruce is confident his side will be a different proposition.

He said: "Now the defining part of the season is upon us. We have got back-to-back home games against Blackpool and Blackburn - can we go and win them both?

"If we can, then we have got an exciting Spring to look forward to.

"It won't be easy and they will be as fresh as daisies as well. They haven't played at all now for two weeks, so all the little injuries and knocks and all the rest of it that they have had will be okay.

"We will have to treat them with the respect we gave Manchester United.

"Our home form has been terrific and we are a different beast. We hope we go and produce the kind of performance were we are capable of getting a result at home, and we will be trying our utmost."

Skipper Lee Cattermole returns after sitting out the defeat at United through suspension while loan signing Danny Welbeck is also available having been ineligible to play against his parent club.

Kieran Richardson may return after missing out through illness at Old Trafford while central defender Titus Bramble could be added to a squad which included youngsters Blair Adams, Adam Reed and Jordan Cook on Boxing Day following his return to training from a knee injury.

However, John Mensah (ankle), Michael Turner and Fraizer Campbell (both knee) remain on the sidelines.

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway admits it feels like they have been going through their very own Groundhog Day during the recent cold snap.

The Seasiders have had their last three home matches - against Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool - called off because Bloomfield Road does not have undersoil heating.

Snow and ice in the north west have also meant Holloway has had to come up with some creative solutions to allow training just to continue, never mind remain challenging for players halfway through their maiden Barclays Premier League season.

The trip to Sunderland may, at last, offer a welcome release to a squad which has not played a competitive match since December 11 - a 1-0 win at Stoke.

"It's like Groundhog Day; we've had three cancellations now. The first everyone played and we didn't," Holloway said. "We are trying to train athletes in this weather but it is ridiculous.

"Where would you put a racehorse in weather like this? We've tried training on the beach and even that was frozen.

"We've been indoors but the clever thing is we are monitoring what has happened to our lads after we have used certain surfaces.

"Last year we got two or three injuries by repeating the same surface so we are trying to swap it around and it won't cause a problem for their bodies."

The postponement of their last two matches mean captain Charlie Adam will miss the match at the Stadium of Light as he has had a one-match suspension hanging over him for accumulating five bookings.

"If he had planned this it would have been great for him because he's had Christmas off but I don't think he has!" joked Holloway.

"Players want to play, they don't like it when they are not playing and Charlie is no different."

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

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