First Division: McCarthy has high expectations of McAteer

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The Independent Football

Jason McAteer, who was withdrawn at half-time during the first leg of Sunderland's First Division play-off semi-final against Crystal Palace, is set to return at the Stadium of Light tonight as Mick McCarthy's men attempt to overturn a 3-2 deficit.

With the tie so finely poised, McCarthy is keen for his Republic of Ireland international to play a major part. McAteer has been troubled by a groin injury and was taken off at Selhurst Park as a precaution, but McCarthy expects him to be available.

"There is still everything to play for," McCarthy said. "At 3-2, the game is set up to be an exciting one and I wonder if one goal will be enough for Palace."

Sunderland are likely to field the same starting line-up as in the first leg. Darren Williams had no reaction to a tight hamstring and is expected to continue.

Palace are also likely to be unchanged. Darren Powell, who has been out since the end of last year with a thigh injury, made a late appearance as a substitute at Selhurst Park on Friday, but he is unlikely to replace Mikele Leigertwood in the Palace defence. Leigertwood has been a regular in recent weeks after Mark Hudson's loan spell from Fulham ended.

Dougie Freedman, the scorer of so many important goals for Palace, is expected to remain on the bench, with Neil Shipperley and Andy Johnson preferred in attack.

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