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Rose ineligible for Spurs game
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill will be without full-back Danny Rose for tomorrow's Barclays Premier League clash with Tottenham.
The defender is unavailable under the terms of his loan agreement with parent club Spurs, although John O'Shea could return to the back four after missing the Boxing Day victory over Manchester City through illness.
O'Neill has recalled midfielder David Meyler from his loan spell at Hull after he completed a one-match ban, but will look at how his squad has recovered following the City game before naming his team.
O'Neill is hoping his wingers are finally ready to terrorise Barclays Premier League full-backs.
Adam Johnson and James McClean played key roles in Wednesday's famous 1-0 victory over champions Manchester City, with the #10million England international contributing the winning goal and McClean providing a reminder of the form which propelled him into the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012.
O'Neill's plan for the season was to have his two wide men supplying the ammunition for 12million summer signing Steven Fletcher and Benin international Stephane Sessegnon from the off, although 25-year-old Johnson's injury problems and a lack of form for both men have hampered the scheme's implementation.
However, there were signs against City that it is starting to come to fruition and now the Ulsterman is hoping for more of the same against Spurs.
O'Neill said: "They can be a threat and this is the whole point. If we can get the ball out to Adam sometimes a wee bit more quickly than we do, then he can cause problems.
"You would hope that would be the case. With James, we sat here a couple of months ago and we were talking about this second season syndrome, and I was hoping that it genuinely wouldn't be an insurmountable problem for him.
"I knew he would have difficulty early on, and that was shown by the number of times that full-backs went to close him so very quickly in matches.
"He is learning to cope with that know and I am hoping he will overcome it. But still, he will have games where he will be unable to do anything, simply because players have either marked him or things didn't happen for him.
"But overall, he is coming through."
Andre Villas-Boas has called on Tottenham to open up a gap on their rivals so that they do not slip away and miss out on Champions League football again.
Despite being fourth in the table, Spurs have failed to show the consistency they exhibited last season. The Londoners have squandered nine points by conceding late goals and their season has been characterised by often nervy and unconvincing home displays.
Wary that just five points separate Tottenham from eighth-place Stoke, Villas-Boas knows his team must go on a winning run to separate themselves from the likes of Everton, Arsenal and West Brom, who lurk just below them.
"At the moment everyone is packed together, which is very dangerous," the Tottenham manager said.
"What we want to do is have a stronger second half to the season than last year.
"We have to continue our progress to hopefully open a gap between us and the rest of the teams that sit near the top.
"Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United will compete for the title between them.
"For the top four Everton are there, Liverpool will come back strongly definitely and there is always a surprise team - last year it was Newcastle, this year it is West Brom. What you want is to finally settle into the top four, opening up some kind of gap if possible."
One complaint Villas-Boas cannot have is the way his team have performed on the road this season.
Spurs have won five away games, the latest one being Saturday's 4-0 crushing of Aston Villa.
In Sunderland, Villas-Boas knows Spurs will come up against one of the form teams in the league, however.
The Black Cats have flirted with the relegation zone for much of the season, but they are now seven points clear after wins over Reading, Southampton and champions Manchester City.
Villas-Boas said: "Their form is improving. They have come out a little bit from that pressure zone and in some ways we would have been better off playing them a couple of weeks ago.
"It is a major boost of confidence for them, so we will expect an extremely difficult game.
"It is always difficult playing there, particularly when they have just won against the champions. They can't find better inspiration than that."
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