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KenwyneSunderland will give Kenwyne Jones up until the last minute to prove his fitness for tomorrow night's game against Aston Villa.

But the Black Cats will err on the side of caution rather than gamble on him being able to play, if a clear decision cannot be made.

The Trindad & Tobago international striker has been in blistering form recently but picked up a hip flexor muscle injury against Manchester City 10 days ago and did not reappear for the second half after tormenting the Blues in the opening 45 minutes.

The injury was not as bad as first feared and it was thought he might have a chance of playing in the Birmingham City game at the weekend.

But the injury had not fully healed by Saturday and the continuous rain on the Stadium of Light surface in the run-up to the game would have made risking a muscular injury particularly unwise.

The 25-year-old does have an outside chance of being available for tomorrow's game but Bruce will not take the risk of trying to bring back the big targetman too soon – regardless of his potential value against the likes of Jon Carew and Emile Heskey.

He said: " Kenwyne had no chance of playing at the weekend and we will just see how he goes from here.

"We've got Benjani available to take his place, as he did against Birmingham, so in that regard we've got to be grateful that we were able to bring in cover during the January transfer window.

"It would be nice to have Kenwyne back sooner rather than later but you've got to be careful with muscle injuries – they're very hard to predict.

"We'll monitor Kenwyne's fitness and if there's a chance then we'll seriously think about it but we won't be bringing him back unless we're completely confident that the injury won't reoccur."

Sunderland's injury problems have eased in recent weeks and over the last couple of games, Jordan Henderson and Lee Cattermole have edged their way back to availability to start games.

Andy Reid is the only first-team squad player who remains sidelined – the Irishman recovering from a hamstring tear.

And John Mensah is a doubt after twisiting his knee in Saturday's victory over Birmingham, an injury which forced his substitution a little over quarter-of-an-hour before the end of the game.