STEVE BRUCE has identified John Mensah as the perfect candidate to solve Sunderland’s left-back problem ahead of Saturday’s visit of Liverpool.

The chances of George Mc- Cartney appearing are slim after he picked up a foot problem on international duty.

The Sunderland manager has not given up on the Northern Irishman, but is ready to accept that his only specialist left-back will be absent.

With Kieran Richardson, his most obvious replacement after a couple of impressive displays, suspended following his sending-off at Manchester United last time out, options are limited, so the versatile Mensah is a strong contender.

The Ghanaian missed the draw at Old Trafford 11 days ago after picking up a thigh problem in training during the build up.

But Mensah is pretty confident that he will be fit to face Liverpool when he returns from international duty. He has been with the Ghana squad but was allowed to rest for the World Cup qualifier with Benin having already secured a place at next summer’s finals in South Africa.

Having been rested for that game, Bruce will be satisfied that Mensah can come through fitness assessments at the back end of the week to face Liverpool.

Bruce also has the option of playing Paulo Da Silva on the left, but the Paraguayan defender had a more hectic week playing in a World Cup qualifier with Venezuela. He could also figure tonight against Colombia.

Either way Da Silva and Mensah – due to face Mali today – will have long trips back to the North-East tomorrow and it will only be then that Bruce will get a true indication of fatigue levels.

While Bruce may have doubts surrounding his fullback position, he has been encouraged to learn that midfielder Lee Cattermole could be fit. A foot problem prevented Cattermole from seeing out the 90 minutes against Manchester United and Wolves, and he was ruled out of meeting up with the England Under-21s.

However, he has responded to treatment over the last ten days and is winning his battle to face Liverpool.

Bruce has been on scouting missions during the international break and he has had players watched in South America.

It was also claimed yesterday that they are one of a number of clubs weighing up a move for Norwegian teenager Marcus Pedersen. The 19- year-old striker has scored nine goals for Stromgodset this season and has also been tracked by Blackburn and Hamburg.