Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hit by Injury Crisis

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hit by Injury Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Sunderland could be forced to fight for their play-off lives without four key defenders this weekend after the Black Cats' hierarchy responded to fresh injuries by withdrawing three players from international duty.

Jason McAteer and Gary Breen will both miss the Republic of Ireland's friendly in Poland tomorrow, while George McCartney is out of Northern Ireland's clash with Serbia & Montenegro as he has yet to recover from a gashed knee.

In addition, Black Cats officials were last night awaiting news on the results of a scan to determine the extent of Julio Arca's knee injury after the Argentinian failed to make Saturday's 0-0 draw at Wigan.

A clean sheet at the JJB stadium is testimony to the Black Cats' defensive strength in depth and Sunderland supporters are still talking about Joachim Bjorklund's heroics after the Swede repelled everything thrown his way in the North West.

However, Stadium of Light boss Mick McCarthy can ill afford Breen, who played 90 minutes at the weekend, joining a lengthening list of injured defenders ahead of a must-win fixture against Crewe Alexandra.

The former Coventry and West Ham centre-half, who has missed almost three months of the season through injury, is struggling with a sore knee and may be forced to follow Arca for a scan later this week.

But it is the South American full back's plight which is of primary concern to McCarthy after he aggravated his knee problem in training on Friday. There are fears that Arca, named in the Professional Footballers' Association's Team of the Year, could be out for the remainder of the season after swelling failed to ease after the weekend.

And with McAteer (hamstring) also struggling ahead of the visit of Dario Gradi's men, McCarthy's squad could be tested to the limit with the play-offs tantalisingly close. …

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