The injury to Joleon Lescott may well be the most worrying for boss Mark Hughes. The England man had been starting to look quite imposing in the centre of defence, but will now miss between five and eight weeks after surgery. Wayne Bridge will be missing until well in to January, and Michael Johnson won't play again this season. Nigel de Jong starts a one-game ban for collecting five bookings.
Sunderland have their fair share of absentees, too. Recruit from Hull Michael Turner has an ankle injury, newboy Bolo Zenden has a tweaked hamstring, Craig Gordon a wrist knock and the better Ferdinand will play no part. Inspirational captain and bargain of the summer Lorik Cana is suspended, but former Wigan ratter Lee Cattermole should replace him.
We keep saying this week in, week out, but tomorrow really must result in three points. Sunderland, for their poor recent run, are a side that can hurt us. Darren Bent and Steed Malbranque are two players who especially enjoy playing us, and their attacking four, especially the newly-trim Andy Reid, should not be underestimated. If we go at them we should have enough, but if we umm and err they'll cause us worry.
The left side of the defence is becoming an increasing problem, it couldn't not do with over £30m of players there crocked. Sylvinho had a mare on Wednesday, and i think he'll be replaced. With Nige suspended it can only mean playing Vince, Zab or Ned out of position, with the latter probably being the safest bet. Whether Emmanuel Adebayor warrants a starting place is up for debate, but he's certainly looking more like the player Arsenal fans warned us of than the man who bagged a goal a game early doors.
I'm not entirely sure how Sunderland will line up. Michael Turner sounds unlikely to start, meaning either John Mensah could come in, or George McCartney, harshly sent off here in March, might play central with Kieran Richardson at left-back. Nyron Nosworthy has been getting the nod over United reject Phil Bardsley, and Paraguayan legend somebody Da Silva will play at centre-half. The impressive Jordan Henderson should get another start.
It's a tough one to call. Sunderland have two real footballing wingers and strikers capable of unsettling any defence, but are out of form and awful on the road. For all we should fancy ourselves for three points, confidence really can't be high, and you don't hold too much hope in a patched-up defence coping with their presence in the final third. We're in the habit of conceding bad goals, and that's unlikely to stop any time soon.
If we've any chance of finishing in the top six, let alone top four, we must be beating teams at home, simple as that. Given Sunderland's defence, too, we ought to be looking at this game as a guaranteed three points, but any such result would be a godsend. It's a tough game, but these players get paid very handsomely to not run round like a bunch of headless fuckwits, and it's about time they did as much.
City: Given, Richards, Onuoha, Toure, Kompany, Barry, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy
Sunderland: Fulop, Nosworthy, Richardson, Da Silva, McCartney, Cattermole, Malbranque, Henderson, Bent, Jones, Reid
Prediction: City 2 Sunderland 2