Jermain Defoe will miss Sunderland's trip to Arsenal on 5 December as a result of the injury that forced him off after just 31 minutes of the 2-0 victory over Stoke City, Sam Allardyce has confirmed. However, the experienced former England striker, who returned to the Premier League in January following a short stint with Toronto FC, is making swift strikes in his recovery and the manager hopes to have him back in the squad for the visit of Watford.
Defoe's inclusion in the starting line-up against Stoke was not guaranteed thanks to an ankle issue sustained shortly after he notched a crucial winner against Crystal Palace last month. Initial fears that he may have damaged ligaments thankfully proved to be unfounded, although he is now said to be struggling from a hamstring problem that will see him join Sebastian Larsson on the sidelines this weekend.
"Seb's gone to Barcelona for some treatment on his medial ligament, which will speed the process up we believe," Allardyce told reporters at his weekly pre-match press conference. "Jermain's recovering particularly well, it seems that he has had a good recovery time from this type of injury before so it doesn't look as serious as first thought. Jack Rodwell should be joining in training tomorrow and everybody else is OK."
When pushed on if Defoe's rapid progress meant that he would be expected to feature against Arsenal, the manager responded: "No. Not this weekend, no. But next weekend. It would be looking like, the way he is progressing, that he will be OK for next weekend."
While Defoe, Larsson and Rodwell will all miss out, however, right-back Billy Jones is available for selection once more having now served the one-match suspension handed down as a result of picking up his fifth yellow card of the season at Selhurst Park.
Sunderland travel to face an Arsenal team that have been ravaged by their own injury problems over recent weeks. With the likes of Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott already sidelined, Arsene Wenger lost both Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez during the recent 1-1 draw at Norwich City and it has since been revealed that Santi Cazorla also sustained a knee injury on a costly afternoon at Carrow Road.
Widespread reports suggest that the Spanish midfielder is now set to miss up to three months of action, although Allardyce does not believe the absences of so many key performers will make things any easier for his side.
He added: "I think the strength in depth of Arsene's squad is why they have always qualified for Europe and always got through the group stages and finished in the top four. I think you could say it weakens the side slightly.
"We have a chance, maybe a better chance when those players are not playing, but they've still got a top quality squad of international players throughout so only Saturday will tell on how we play, how we approach the game and if we can play our very best game."