PHIL PARKINSON will prioritise the signing of another defender in the final week of the transfer window amid fears Arbenit Xhemajli could be sidelined for more than a month.

Xhemajli was called up by the Kosovan national squad last week and was expected to feature for his nation’s Under-21s side against Austria on Friday before stepping up to the senior squad for matches against Slovenia and Greece.

However, he injured his right knee in training shortly after joining up with the Under-21s set-up and was withdrawn from the game against Austria.

Sunderland’s medical staff are yet to conduct their own checks on the summer signing from Neuchatel Xamax, but the club’s physio, Peter Brand, has been informed of the situation and it is feared Xhemajli could be unavailable for a number of weeks.

The Black Cats are already short of defensive cover as another of their summer signings, Morgan Feeney, has been ruled out for four months with a knee injury. Feeney performed impressively in the first of Sunderland’s EFL Trophy matches and had been earmarked as cover for Bailey Wright.

With Tom Flanagan suspended for this weekend’s game at Swindon Town and Jordan Willis only just recovering from a minor knee issue, Parkinson finds himself short of defensive options ahead a two-month spell that is set to be Sunderland’s busiest of the campaign.

Brandon Taylor has thrust himself into first-team contention in the last few weeks, and Conor McLaughlin is another alternative for a centre-half berth, but as well as looking at potential attacking options, Parkinson will look to recruit another defender before the EFL transfer window closes on Friday. Ideally, any new additions would be Under-21 players who would not count towards Sunderland’s salary cap.