Sunderland striker Darren Bent is expected to have recovered from a knee injury in time to face West Ham United at the weekend.
Bent picked up the knock during Saturday's disappointing 2-1 defeat at Birmingham City and misses the Carling Cup encounter with Aston Villa, a fourth round tie boss Steve Bruce is desperate to win.
The former Birmingham boss said:"Darren's had a bad knock. It wobbled his knee a bit and gave him a fright.
"It was close to being serious but I don't think it is fortunately. It isn't his ligaments. He twisted his knee, rattled everything inside.
"I've got to make changes to look after players – I can't afford to risk players who are carrying knocks or strains.
"I've also got to juggle the squad because we haven't got that big a
one to call on and progressing in the Premier League is still our main goal.
"I learned my lesson when I took Birmingham to Blackpool in the Cup a few years ago. I left half my first team out and we got our backsides kicked.
"Afterwards I thought to myself: 'well, what was the point of that?' If you're going to be in a competition you might as well take it seriously.
"I can understand why the top teams do it, because of the sheer number of games they have to play, but for everyone else in the Premier League this competition is an opportunity to try and win some silverware."