Danny Welbeck Knee Surgery Deepens Sunderland Woes, Sidelines Attacker 4-6 Weeks

While the unexpected departure of Darren Bent left Steve Bruce's attack shorthanded, Sunderland's problems were exasperated on Thursday with the announcement Danny Welbeck, now the Black Cat's second leading scorer, will be out for at least a month. Following exploratory surgery on his knee, the Manchester United loanee is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks, according to Sky Sports' Simon Thomas:

#SAFC Danny Welbeck has been ruled out for 6-8 weeks after undergoing exploratory knee surgery, manager Steve Bruce has confirmed.less than a minute ago via web

Welbeck was second on Sunderland's depth chart at striker (behind Asamoah Gyan) and would be Bruce's first choice on the left side in a single striker formation. The 20-year-old England hopeful has six goals in 20 league appearances this season, all scored after November 14. Combined with Bent's eight goals, Sunderland's two attacking absences take 14 of their season's 26 goals out of the team.

Sunderland currently sits sixth in the English Premier League, only four points behind fourth place Chelsea for the league's final Champions League spot. Speculation has surrounded the club in the wake of Bent's move to Aston Villa, asking how Sunderland will spend the £19 million they got from Villa. With news of Welbeck's absence, the Black Cats may be pressed into a quick decision if they're to retain their hold on a European football spot.

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