LAMINE KONE and Jonny Williams might have made their comebacks from injury in the last few days, but tonight’s game at Birmingham City has come too soon for the duo to feature in Sunderland’s starting line-up.

Kone is set to be part of the Black Cats squad at St Andrew’s, having come through 60 minutes of last week’s International Cup game with Leicester City as he completes his recovery from a knee problem, but the Ivory Coast international will be on the bench as Sunderland look to clamber out of the Championship’s bottom three.

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Williams, who is yet to feature under Coleman, played for more than an hour of Sunday’s second-string game with Arsenal, but the Wales international needs another reserves outing before he will be considered for senior duty.

“Jonny played with the Under-23s and came through it okay,” said Coleman. “Lamine had 60 minutes during the week for the Under-23s, and both players came through fine.

“They were a bit rusty, but you’d expect that when you’ve been out for two or three months.  Both players are fine. I think this game is a bit early for both. Lamine will be in and around the squad – Jonny probably needs another 60 or 90 minutes before we can consider him to be on the bench for us.”

Kazenga LuaLua is not fit enough to start this evening, having signed a short-term deal from Brighton last Thursday, while Didier Ndong is suspended following his sending off against Cardiff City. Sunderland will also be without full-back Billy Jones, who is struggling with an illness.

“Billy’s had an illness and he had slight concussion against Hull with a suspected broken nose,” said Coleman. “He’s just been poorly these last couple of days, so we’re going to miss him.”

Having won their last game against Hull City, Sunderland go into this evening’s game knowing a point could take them out of the bottom three.

Coleman was at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday watching Birmingham hold Premier League Huddersfield Town to a 1-1 draw in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but the Blues have won just two of their last 11 Championship matches.

“They’re all big games, but even more so when the team we’re playing are in and around us,” said the Sunderland boss. “We had a look at them on Saturday against Huddersfield, but obviously Steve (Cotterill) rested a lot of players. They’ll be saving it for this game.

“It’s a big game, but it’s exciting as well. I know it’s stressful because we’re at the wrong end of the league, but you want to be involved in big games. Of course we want to be involved in games like this at the other end of the league, but it is what it is and we are where we are. It’s a chance for us to go there and push one step closer to where we need to be.”

Sunderland (probable, 3-5-2): Ruiter; Browning, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter; Matthews, E Robson, Cattermole, Honeyman, Oviedo; Maja, Asoro.