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Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher will be sidelined for up to six weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered at West Brom last weekend.

However, while the Scotland international will miss Sunday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool and several games beyond, the news is significantly better than was first feared.

Defender John O’Shea, who came off with a niggle during Tuesday night’s 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough, is expected to be fit and midfielder Lee Cattermole could also figure after coming through that game unscathed, while full-back Phil Bardsley is close to returning from a broken bone in his foot.

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is set to return for the trip to Sunderland after being left out of the midweek Capital One Cup defeat against Manchester United because of a side strain.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has to decide whether to continue with the three centre-halves he fielded at Old Trafford as right-back Glen Johnson is still out injured.

Midfielder Joe Allen is absent while Philippe Coutinho is still recovering from a shoulder operation.

Kevin Ball has been left in charge of the team as caretaker manager, although it seems likely his bid to become permanent boss is doomed to fail even if he masterminds a shock victory over Liverpool.

Gus Poyet is waiting in the wings and is expected to take control early next week.

Liverpool have lost early season momentum with successive defeats to Southampton and Manchester United and will have to cope with a Sunderland side who have been invigorated by the overthrowing of Paolo Di Canio last weekend.

Stat of the game: Sunderland have scored only 12 goals in 24 Premier League meetings with Liverpool.

Sunderland (Possible, 4-1-3-2): Westwood; Gardner, O’Shea, Roberge, Colback; Johnson, Cattermole, Vaughan, Larsson; Giaccerini, Altidore.
Out: Borini (inelgible), Bardsley (foot), Brown (calf), Dossena (thigh), Fletcher (shoulder).
Test: O’Shea (unspecified).

Liverpool (Possible, 3-4-1-2): Mignolet; Touré, Agger, Sakho; Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Enrique; Moses; Suárez, Sturridge.
Out: Johnson, Cissokho (both ankle), Allen (hamstring), Coutinho (shoulder).

Referee: Howard Webb. Matches: 5. R0 Y12.

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