DANNY Welbeck is determined to make up for lost time as he plots a return to the Sunderland starting line-up.
The 20-year-old ended a two-month absence through injury when he was introduced as a substitute in the 0-0 draw at Arsenal last time out, and with Liverpool arriving on Wearside today before a trip to Manchester City in a fortnight's time, he is desperate to get back into the swing of things.
Welbeck was earning rave reviews when disaster struck at Aston Villa on January 5 as he tore a cartilage and was ruled out for up to eight weeks.
His cameo at the Emirates Stadium has been followed by an appearance for the reserves and a run-out in an internal practice match, and now he is ready to step up his involvement.
Welbeck said: "I have missed quite a few games, so I was obviously a bit down-hearted at that, but I took it as a positive.
"I am just looking forward to playing as many minutes as possible from now until the end of the season, and then we will see what happens from there.
"I have missed a lot of games over these past two months, so just to get back fit and get as many games under my belt as possible before the end of the season, that's my main aim."
Welbeck's contribution at Arsenal gave him a tantalising taste of football during a month which, because of the FA Cup and the forthcoming international break, will see his side play just twice.
He will head off on international duty with England Under-21s after the Liverpool game, and while the relative inactivity has proved frustrating, it has at least allowed him to recover from his exertions in north London.
Welbeck said: "Just to get back into it at Arsenal and then to miss another week, it was like being injured again.
"But that's football and you know not everything is going to go your way.
"Obviously at the start, I felt a bit stiff, but I am gradually getting towards full fitness and I am just looking forward to playing on Sunday, hopefully."
Welbeck's misfortune has hit Sunderland particularly hard because of Darren Bent's £24million departure for Aston Villa, and that has left record signing Asamoah Gyan to play up front largely by himself.
The striker has played both in attack and wide in a midfield five during his loan spell from Manchester United, and he is taking nothing for granted this weekend.
Welbeck said: "The players who have come in have done really well, so you can't say they have been missing me.
"We have been a bit unlucky with a few results - we have been going ahead in games and then throwing away points at the end.
"Just to get a few players back from injury is always a massive boost.
"But we will see what happens."
From a personal point of view, Welbeck's return could hardly have been better-timed with games against Arsenal, Liverpool and City giving him an opportunity to do his parent club a series of favours.
However, he will be concentrating on himself and his current employers, and nothing else as he prepares for the latest instalment.
He said: "You could say it is a personal derby, but I will go into it as with any other game and just play my normal way.
"It is a big rivalry, but it is just another game. I am just going to go into it as normal and give 100% anyway."
Manager Steve Bruce has been boosted by the returns of skipper Lee Cattermole and Nedum Onuoha and Bolo Zenden to the squad after injury.