Fabio Borini has welcomed the return to fitness of Jan Kirchhoff and hopes he can have a big impact as Sunderland battle for Premier League safety.
Having returned to training and featured for the Under-23s for an hour against Manchester United last week, fit-again Kirchhoff is expected to be in the squad to face Burnley on Saturday.
Kirchhoff hasn’t played since December and David Moyes must decide whether to throw him in from the start against Sean Dyche's side.
Other key first teamers Victor Anichebe and Lee Cattermole won’t be involved for at least another three weeks.
Borini, though, is delighted to have the German midfielder back to bolster Moyes' midfield options - and hopes he can make a similar impact to the one Kirchhoff made when he arrived last January for a cut-price fee from Bayern Munich.
"We all hope that [he can have a similar impact as last season] because Jan is a big guy," said Borini.
"He is clever on the ball, he can keep it and he can tackle.
"That is the kind of player we have missed in midfield because he can do both transitions - offensive and defensive - in a very good manner.
"We need that kind of wall in midfield.
"I also hope Lee comes back as soon as possible because he has a charismatic personality and he is a great strength for us.
"He is someone we can always rely on if we don’t have the best game he can lift everyone up with a single tackle or just a shout.
"It’s just what Lee Cattermole is and we have missed him," Borini told the club website.
* Meanwhile, Sunderland Under-23s will host Colchester United in the last 16 of the Premier League Cup at Eppleton Colliery Welfare, in Hetton, on Friday, March 17 (7pm KO)
The Black Cats advanced to the knockout stages as Group B winners after just one defeat in six matches.
Colchester, meanwhile, progressed as runners-up in Group C, knocking out both Manchester City and Derby County.
Entry to the game is priced at £3 for adults and just £1 for over 65s and under 16s. Sunderland AFC season card holders do not gain free entry to cup fixtures.