Jermain Defoe’s 15 Premier League goals kept Sunderland up last season - and he has been backed to achieve similar success this year.
The 33-year-old hasn’t featured in pre-season since the friendly win over Rotherham United after picking up a thigh strain during the club’s tour of France.
But he returned to the training pitches at the Academy of Light this week and is expected to feature against Manchester City tomorrow teatime.
Whether boss David Moyes throws him in from the start remains up in the air, though, with the striker missing the last four friendly matches.
Fellow forward Fabio Borini has been filling the void left by Defoe, with the Italian striker netting three goals in pre-season.
Borini doesn’t mind where he plays as long as he is in the starting line-up - and he has welcomed the timely return of Defoe.
And he hopes to see Defoe celebrating a similar goal return this season.
“It is always good to have JD back because he was our top scorer last season and basically kept us up with those goals,” Borini told the Echo.
“We want him to score the same if not more this season.
“I have played up front but I can play in the other position like the manager tried me in; left, right, behind and up front when Jermain was injured.
“It is good to have him back but it doesn’t matter where I play as long as I am there.”
Top scorer Defoe took Sunderland’s Player of the Year title last season after his 15 Premier League goals proved pivotal towards keeping the Black Cats in the top flight.
In the summer he was rewarded for his efforts with a 12-month contract extension with Sunderland - to take him through to his 36th birthday at the Stadium of Light.