Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson could get his big chance after seeing Lee Cattermole ruled out for three months.
The 19-year-old, who signed a contract extension until 2013 last week, may find himself thrust into the heart of Steve Bruce's midfield as he attempts to find cover for his £6million enforcer.
Bruce confirmed that Cattermole damaged his medial ligament during last Saturday's 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Liverpool and will be out for at least 12 weeks.
However, Bruce is confident that in the shape of local boy Henderson and Holland international Bolo Zenden, who signed a short-term contract at the Stadium of Light last week, he has ready-made replacements.
The manager said: "We have a few options in midfield. We will miss him [Cattermole], but we have others who can step in.
"Jordan comes to mind. He came on [against Liverpool] and was terrific.
"It is your worst nightmare losing someone like Catts, especially with the size of the squad, but I am pretty comfortable that we can overcome it."