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Feb 8, 2013

O'Neill cautious over Cattermole return

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill is hopeful that he can reinstate Lee Cattermole to his first-team line-up before the end of this season, as the midfielder continues to struggle with a knee injury.

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Cattermole has endured a difficult season on Wearside, suffering injuries to both left and right knees at differing intervals. Having only handed the player a new four-year contract last October, O'Neill is unwilling to take risks on a player he values so highly.

"Lee made himself available at Reading, but I didn't want to take the risk because there's no need to rush players back," he told the Sunderland Echo. "On Tuesday, he did the training and felt a bit of something. We had another look at him yesterday and we could do with him for the last third of the season. We've missed a bit of presence there in midfield at different times. Through no fault of his own through injury, he's missed a chunk of the season where we've had to do without him.

"We've got through some of the games, but it would nice to have him back for the final third of the season."

Having previously stated his desire to enhance Sunderland's physicality on the pitch in the absence of Cattermole, O'Neill is likely to afford another start to new signing Alfred N'Diaye. Keen to face the challenge of Arsenal on Saturday, the 65-year-old also feels his side should enter the fixture with the belief they can claim victory over the Gunners.

"Going forward, Arsenal are playing very well indeed," he said. "I thought their performance against Liverpool 10 days ago [a 2-2 draw] was excellent attacking-wise. They'd naturally be disappointed with the goals conceded in the game, but Liverpool played very well and it was an excellent match.

"Arsenal have got very capable players and the younger players in the side are improving rapidly and it looks as if they've got a reasonable balance. That said, we played them last season in successive weeks - one in the league, one in the FA Cup - and I thought we could have won them both. We played them again on the opening day which was an excellent result for us away from home [a 0-0 draw]. They're difficult to deal with, but we should go into it thinking we can win this match."

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