Cattermole set for further absence
The 22-year-old has not played since the Black Cats' 2-0 Premier League home defeat by Blackpool on December 28, an absence of six games, because of a persistent back problem. Cattermole was told to rest for a month by a specialist, and although Bruce hinted in the week running up to the derby clash with Newcastle on January 16 the midfield enforcer could be involved, he has not been seen since. But now he has been told he must sit out for at least three further weeks, and that will come as another blow to Bruce, who has seen his £6million signing from Wigan miss far too much football through a combination of injury and suspension during his 17 months or so on Wearside to date. Cattermole's back condition has had a knock-on effect and caused hamstring and hip problems, and he missed two months of last season for similar reasons. The arrival of loan signing Sulley Muntari from Inter Milan - the 26-year-old was in the crowd at the Stadium of Light for Monday's 4-2 defeat by champions Chelsea after being granted his visa - will offset the captain's misfortune to an extent. However, Bruce has spent the last two months having to deal with a sizeable injury list which has robbed him of the services of Cattermole, Danny Welbeck, Michael Turner, David Meyler and John Mensah - the Ghana international defender has made the bench for the last two games - and lost star striker Darren Bent in a shock move to Aston Villa last month. In the circumstances, he has been delighted with the character shown by the men who have kept the club firmly in the race for a top-six finish. Speaking after the Chelsea game, he said: "In the changing room after the game, we had Welbeck, Campbell, Turner, Cattermole, Muntari, Meyler - the list goes on. "We have got seven [missing], so all credit to the players who performed again on Tuesday night. "We have been like that now for the best part of six or eight weeks, so all credit to them with still six or seven big players missing, we have still been able to produce some sort of performance, and they can take a big amount of credit for that. "They gave as good as they got." Muntari will go straight into the squad for Saturday's trip to Stoke, where he could start alongside Benin international Stephane Sessegnon, who made his debut against the Blues.