SUNDERLAND boss Paolo Di Canio will have his fingers crossed tonight, with six of his players away on international duty just three days before the start of the new Premier League season, writes Dan Holland.
The Italian’s new-look Black Cats side have seen several key figures called up for their countries this week and will be hoping that they can avoid the same fate suffered by Steven Fletcher last season, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Fulham.
New signings Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini with both be in action, with the latter due to play in a friendly against Argentina in Rome.
Giaccherini started three of the Azzurri’s five matches at the Confederations Cup this summer prior to his move to Wearside, scoring in a 4-2 defeat to hosts Brazil.
The former Juventus winger could come up against Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini, who returns to the Argentina squad for tonight’s match.
Altidore is in line to spearhead the USA’s attack in their friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Sarajevo.
The 23-year-old, who joined Sunderland from AZ Alkmaar last month, has been in fine form for his country of late and is looking to become the first player in USA history to score in five consecutive international matches.
Both players should make their competitive Black Cats debuts against the Cottagers on Saturday, having been identified as the solution to the Wearsiders’ attacking problems.
Seb Larsson, likely to partner new boy Cabral in central midfield against Fulham, is in the Sweden squad for their match against Norway too.
Three Black Cats players will also be in action at the Cardiff City Stadium as Wales take on the Republic of Ireland.
John O’Shea will line up in defence for Ireland, with Keiren Westwood earning his 16th international cap in goal.
Westwood lost his place in the Irish side last season after finding himself unable to displace Simon Mignolet at the Stadium of Light.
But with Millwall’s David Forde ruled out after knee surgery, the ex-Coventry man has the chance to stake his claim before next month’s World Cup Qualifiers against Austria and Sweden.
Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni said: “I want to help his morale by giving him the opportunity to start this game.
“I think it’s important that I show him we have confidence in him so as to help him recover his.
“Usually the number one plays every game and when he doesn’t he can lose a little confidence and maybe make some mistakes so it’s important to be calm but we know what he can do and it is good that he will have this opportunity to remind us.”
David Vaughan is in the Welsh squad, though last season’s derby hero has not featured for his country since playing 45 minutes in a friendly against Austria in February.