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Anichebe return is key, Watford defender - 'I struggled against him' & 3 players on duty last night

Ahead of next week's crucial trip to Vicarage Road, Watford and Belgium defender Christian Kabasele has identified Victor Anichebe as the toughest he's faced in the Premier League since his summer arrival in England; and Sunderland had three players featuring in international games last night - but none of them did very much.

Sunderland v Watford - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Watford defender says he struggled 'the most' against Anichebe

Sunderland travel to Watford next Saturday - April Fools Day - for a game they simply dare not lose. Defeat and the relegation curtain will fall further and any lingering hope will more or less die completely; but any points gained will keep the life support machine on a little longer.

The key to Sunderlands chances may well be whether the Black Cats can get Victor Anichebe fit for the trip to face the Hornets. The Nigerian striker has been instrumental in David Moyes' infrequent highlights this season - the striker has played in four of five victories gained in the Premier League since his post-deadline day arrival.

Indeed his power and ability to batter defenders have proved particularly devastating when he has played against the 'lesser' teams in the division - think Bournemouth, Hull, Leicester and next week's opponents, Watford.

Sunderland v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

It would be no exaggeration to state that Big Vic represents one of Sunderland's last hopes in the relegation fight. If David Moyes can get him fit enough to play a part in the final ten games, there may still be hope of salvation.

The Sunderland boss has hinted that Anichebe may be in line for his latest return from lay-off next weekend. The forward has missed the last six league games with a knee injury that he picked up on his most recent come back - playing just over twenty minutes at the Hawthorns in January before being ruled out again.

And his presence in the side which will take to the field next Saturday might just set off a sinking feeling in his opponents when they see the team sheet. Because Anichebe battered Watford when they came to the Stadium of Light in December, a fact not lost on one of their defenders.

In an interview with the Belgian media, Watford centre-back Christian Kabasele when asked who his toughest opponents in the Premier League have been since his summer arrival from Genk identified the Sunderland striker as the most difficult to play against,

I struggled the most against Anichebe, though for me Romelu Lukaku is the best striker in the Premier League

The two men faced each other in mid-December when the Hornets visited the Stadium of Light. Belgian international Kabasele was a 31st minute replacement for Sebastian Prodl that day and antagonised the home crowd shortly after his introduction when he went down in dramatic fashion after a challenge by Anichebe.

Sunderland v Watford - Premier League
Anichebe and Kabasele battling when Watford visited Sunderland in December
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

That clash set the tone and the Sunderland player's physicality caused the Hornets' back-line problems all afternoon. Kabasele has been missing from the Watford defence for the last couple of months with a muscle problem which also ruled him out of the Belgium national squad which drew with Greece in a World Cup Qualifier yesterday.

Three players on global benches last night

Three Sunderland players were in action for their countries last night - though none of them saw any actual 'action' with each sitting as unused substitutes.

Sebastian Larsson made his return to the Swedish squad but got no minutes on the pitch as his team overcame Belarus by four-goals-to-nil. The game was the Sunderland midfielder's first call-up since Euro 2016 after he missed seven international fixtures following knee surgery.

Sweden v Belarus - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Sebastian Larsson pictured last night before the World Cup Qualifier against Belarus
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images

Larsson will get another chance to win his eighty-eighth cap when Sweden travel to Portugal for a friendly on Tuesday.

Sweden v Belarus - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Larsson with the rest of the Swedish players during the national anthem last night
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images

Youngster Sam Brotherton who signed for Sunderland in January was on the New Zealand bench in Fiji. The Kiwis won by two-goals-to-nil. The 20-year-old has already made seven appearances for his country as well as a handful of substitute spots. The defender may have a trip closer to his new home the next time he appears on international duty - New Zealand have a friendly with Northern Ireland in June.

Myanmar v New Zealand: Group A - FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015
Sam Brotherton in action for New Zealand
Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Finally, want-away winger Jeremain Lens was part of the Netherlands side who were humbled by Bulgaria. The Dutch lost by two unanswered goals though the player who is on loan at Fenerbahçe didn't get onto the pitch. Coach Danny Blind is now under huge pressure as his country face the prospect of failing to qualify for the World Cup having not made last summer's European Championships either.

Netherlands Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Jeremain Lens training with his Netherlands teammates
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images