Sunderland plan reshuffle to accommodate Wes Brown inclusion
Veteran defender Wes Brown could be handed the task of trying to knit together Sunderland's fragile defence as an injury crisis threatens their survival hopes.
The 36-year-old former Manchester United and England star has made just one appearance all season, in a 6-2 Barclays Premier League drubbing at Everton on November 1.
However, he could be pitched into battle with Liverpool at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday evening because Younes Kaboul is sidelined for six to eight weeks with a hamstring tear and John O'Shea is struggling with a calf problem he suffered during the 4-1 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City.
Manager Sam Allardyce is only too well aware of Brown's lack of football in recent months - and the way that was so cruelly exposed at Goodison Park - and will look to employ a system which both utilises his vast experience and offers him a measure of protection if he is required to play.
Allardyce said: "We would have to play a different way. We would have to play a certain system to use Wes' experience, but also give him a little bit of protection because we know that as Wes is getting a little bit older, he's not quite as quick as he used to be.
"We have to protect that area, but also get him to use his experience to play against a Liverpool side that's going to come and try to probably press us high up, by the sound of it, and us to deal and cope with that.
"Whether they play (Christian) Benteke from the start or whether it's (Divock) Origi, I don't know, but we have to deal with what is a quite talented front line."
The relegation-threatened Black Cats have lost each of their last four games and conceded 11 goals in the process and in the circumstances, Kaboul's long-term absence and O'Shea's misfortune have compounded Allardyce's problems with only untested 19-year-old Tom Beadling now in reserve.
Allardyce said: "John has a calf injury. It's not too serious, but may be serious enough for his exclusion from the squad for the Liverpool game, which is something we could do without with his experience and his knowledge of the game.
"But it may be the case we have to be without him. Taking a risk with him not being 100 per cent would be foolish because he could well go out and tear that muscle even more and be out for four or five weeks."
Allardyce has already admitted he will be looking to make two quick signings once the January transfer window opens and that they are likely to be from abroad, and Sunderland have been linked with Lorient defender Lamine Kone in recent days among others.
Asked if new signings were already lined up, the 61-year-old replied: "Yes."