Titus Bramble and Michael Turner are out until the New Year, and it looked like the Black Cats' injury curse had struck again when Ferdinand pulled up in last week's 0-0 draw at Fulham with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Not looking good: Anton Ferdinand limped off against Fulham
Further examination revealed the 25-year-old's problem may instead have been caused by a back spasm and Bruce had hoped he would be able to play at the Stadium of Light but he has now been ruled out.
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon will return after missing last week with a hamstring problem while Asamoah Gyan (toe) is also fit, but Boudewijn Zenden (concussion) is a doubt and Fraizer Campbell (knee) remains a long-term absentee.
Team (from): Gordon, Mignolet, Onuoha, Bardsley, Richardson, Angeleri, Mensah, Da Silva, Cattermole, Riveros, Henderson, Malbranque, Elmohamady, Zenden, Bent, Gyan, Welbeck, Meyler, Adams.
CLICK HERE FOR THE WEEKEND TEAM NEWS IN THE BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE Explore more:People: Michael Turner, Titus Bramble, Steve Bruce, Craig Gordon