Paddy McNair’s return from a serious knee injury will continue to be carefully managed with new Sunderland boss Chris Coleman wary of losing more players.
The 22-year-old Northern Ireland midfielder returned to action at the end of October following 10 months out after rupturing his cruciate ligament and he has since made five appearances for the Black Cats, including 70 minutes in the 2-0 win over Burton Albion.
He also made an appearance as a second-half substitute in Northern Ireland's World Cup play-off second leg in Switzerland.
Coleman has been hit with an injury crisis since taking charge with Duncan Watmore out for the season after suffering a second cruciate ligament injury, Lamine Kone until January and Didier Ndong for three weeks. Jonny Williams, Billy Jones, Marc Wilson and Jack Rodwell also among those unavailable to Coleman.
McNair was rested for the trip to Aston Villa after playing the full game against Millwall after three other players – Watmore, Wilson and Williams – were forced off through injury.
Playing two matches in the space of four games was asking too much of of the Ballyclare man given how long he’d been out so he was rested and returned at Burton where he enjoyed his brightest performance since returning.
Coleman won praise for the impact made by his subs, Darron Gibson – who replaced McNair – Joel Asoro and James Vaughan all helping inspire Sunderland to victory.
Coleman said: “You look at it and you call it, you think I’m going to make that change and sometimes it works. It doesn’t always work. “It worked for us against Burton. The boys that went on made a big impact, some of the lads that are playing are still playing catch-up physically with their fitness.
“Paddy McNair was out a long time, we can’t keep pushing him for 90 minutes, there is the bigger picture.
“We can’t risk Paddy for 90 minutes and then lose him again for two or three months. We can’t lose anymore players, we have eight or nine out. “We have to be careful and cute in our decision making. It worked against Burton, the guys that came on made an impact.”