Sunderland fear defender Anton Ferdinand could be out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Ferdinand limped out of Saturday's goalless draw with Fulham and could miss the festive period.
The injury is a fresh blow for Black Cats boss Steve Bruce, who was already without centre-backs Titus Bramble and Michael Turner until the New Year.
Nedum Onuoha will therefore have a key role to play in the coming weeks and he is readying himself for an important run of games.
The 24-year-old has featured at right-back since joining on loan from Manchester City but is set to cover in the middle of defence as Sunderland face the Lancashire quartet of Bolton, Manchester United, Blackpool and Blackburn between Saturday and New Year's Day.
"The opportunity is there to get points on the board, and with the ambition this side has we want to bag as many as we can," Onuoha told the club's official website.
"Bolton are flying high at the moment but they are only two points ahead of us.
"Obviously they're doing a lot of things well at the moment so we are going to have to give 110 per cent on the day."
Sunderland go into Saturday's game at the Stadium of Light on the back of one defeat in seven matches and sit seventh in the Premier League.