Steven Fletcher poised to return against Crystal Palace

Paolo Di Canio is poised to recall Steven Fletcher to his Sunderland side as he looks to give his red and white revolution lift-off at Crystal Palace tonight

Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher

Di Canio will be without Stephane Sessegnon while Ji Dong-Won’s performance on Tuesday night against MK Dons leaves the forward’s place in doubt for the trip to South London.

The Italian says that Fletcher is fit enough to play and thinks that he will flourish in a system that intends to feed plenty of balls into the penalty area.

Di Canio confirmed: “If he was on the bench (against MK Dons), it’s because he can be involved. When he’s ready, he’s a crucial player. Very important. He’s another option but I will decide when I feel he can give his maximum to the cause. He will travel with us.

“I have to decide when to select him in the starting XI. That doesn’t mean he can’t start on Saturday, we will see.

“For now, we are happy to have him back. I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy. As I’ve always said, I’m happy. I have to be really happy because he can join a team that can help him to be crucial.

“He’s got talent, he’s got quality. In the way we want to play, we are not going to play with him alone up front. Our system, our mechanism is for attacking football, especially at home. Many times we are going to ping balls into the box.

“Even in a game that wasn’t very good, at Southampton, we were right there in the second half but two or three times in the first half the ball was there but we didn’t have a killer instinct. That’s something that he’s got, so this is why he can take advantage of the way we play this year and we can take advantage of him being crucial for us.”

For Sunderland the trip to Crystal Palace also sees them reunited with former striker Kevin Phillips, who will spearhead the Eagles attack. Di Canio sees him as a potential dangerman, even if he will probably only be involved from the bench.

“I don’t remember if I played against him, to be honest, but for sure, I remember him,” he said.

“I don’t know in which period we came up here with West Ham. Unfortunately for Sunderland fans, we won in the cup, 1-0, Trevor Sinclair scored the goal, in 2002 or 2003. The stadium was brand new.

“If Phillips was here, I don’t remember exactly, but he was always a player my team-mates said to be careful of, because he’ll drop, attack this space between the two, he can turn, move the ball and strike.

“He’s a fantastic finisher, always a danger man. So I have, not bad memories, but he was one of the best finishers, a sort of Jermain Defoe of his period. He had different characteristics in an open space because Defoe can run.

“But he is dangerous because if he can turn, go one-on-one and move the ball, it can fly. From 25 yards he can beat you.”

Meanwhile, South Korean media last night claimed Ki Sung-Yueng could be set to complete a one-year loan deal to Sunderland. The Swansea midfielder has been made available and the Black Cats are understood to be monitoring his availability – among other targets.

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