Sunderland V West Ham at Stadium of Light : Match Preview
Hamstring injuries hit Black Cats defenders
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill will be without defenders Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar for the Barclays Premier League clash with West Ham.
The pair both suffered hamstring injuries during last weekend's 2-2 FA Cup third round draw at Bolton and will be missing for several weeks.
Central defender John O'Shea (also hamstring) and striker Stephane Sessegnon (ankle) both missed the game at the Reebok Stadium and have returned to light training - but O'Shea in particular remains a doubt, and new signing Alfred N'Diaye will be included if his international clearance comes through in time.
As a result, midfielders Craig Gardner and Jack Colback could once again find themselves pressed into service as emergency full-backs.
O'Neill said: "It's not ideal for us, really, and that's a problem we have had to face for most of the season.
"But we have to cope with it, that's the way it is."
Playmaker Stephane Sessegnon is also back in training after an ankle injury and O'Neill will also hope to have #4million signing Alfred N'Diaye available for the first time against the Hammers.
The club is still awaiting international clearance for the 22-year-old French midfielder, but has until an hour before kick-off for the documentation to come through.
O'Neill has been keen to add physicality to his midfield resources and with N'Diaye standing at in excess of 6'2", he may have done just that.
He said: "He is athletic. Of course he is young enough that he can improve his own game and he's got a lot of determination about him.
"I think in time he will definitely improve us. He will give us a bit of extra vitality.
"But he hasn't played in the Premier League before, so it is going to be something new to him, but he is really up for the challenge."
O'Neill's focus will be on the three points at stake and the task of ensuring they do not leave the north-east with Sam Allardyce's men.
He said: "It might be surprising to some people, but not really to me. You know what to expect from Sam's teams, and they have done exceptionally well this season, exceptionally well."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce believes the performances have been there from Sunderland but they have not scored enough goals, with only QPR and Aston Villa scoring less than Sunderland's 21 to date.
"It's not been about the performance, but the results haven't come because they have not converted enough of the chances that they've created," Allardyce said of Sunderland's season.
"I don't think they've had too many goalscorers apart from the magnificent start (Steven) Fletcher made.
"I think they should have paid a price for that in result terms but performances, particularly at Sunderland, have always been very, very good - according to our reports.
"It will be a tough game as always away from home. We want to be playing as well as we did against Manchester United to achieve a result at Sunderland. Anything less than that will make life difficult for us."
West Ham completed a loan deal for Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh earlier in the week and Allardyce is ready to utilise the Morocco international, starting tomorrow.
The manager added: "I haven't picked the side yet. Yes, he is available for selection - we've got lots of games coming up.
"He won't be able to be involved in the replay against Manchester United because he wasn't registered in time for the first game.
"We've the same squad as last week with Chamakh joining us from Arsenal - from our point of view he will hopefully play a big part in some good results for us between now and the end of the season."