Sunderland facing fresh injury worry ahead of their weekend trip to Plymouth Argyle

Sunderland have a new injury concern ahead of this weekend’s trip to Plymouth with defender Dan Ballard picking up a problem while away on international duty. Ballard played the full 90 minutes of Northern Ireland’s 4-0 Euro 2024 qualfying defeat against Finland in Helsinki on Friday night, but boss Michael O’Neill has since said the 24-year-old suffered a hamstring issue.

The injury is due to be assessed this morning ahead of Northern Ireland’s final qualifier against Denmark in Belfast this evening. With nothing riding on tonight’s game for Northern Ireland – they cannot qualify for next summer’s tournament – there is no need for Ballard to play if he is not fully fit.

But the bigger issue for Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray is whether he will be fit to be involved in Saturday’s Championship game against the Pilgrims at Home Park. Sunderland went into the international break on the back of a 3-1 win against Birmingham City at the Stadium of Light, winning that game despite the absence of their first-choice central defensive pairing of Ballard and Luke O’Nien.

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Ballard and O’Nien sat out the win against the Blues through suspension as they both picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season in the previous game at Swansea City. Those one-game bans have now been served and, fitness permitting, they will be expected to return to the side at Plymouth.

Against Birmingham, Mowbray paired two summer signings in Australian Nectar Triantis and Dutchman Jenson Seelt in central defence, with the former making his first league start while the latter was making his first senior start in any competition since moving to England. If Ballard is not fit to play at Plymouth, either Triantis or Seelt would be expected to partner O’Nien.

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