Simon Grayson has confirmed that young striker Josh Maja is training with the first team again, and added that injured striker Lewis Grabban will be back in action 'very soon'.
Maja has been missing since his promising pre-season was cut short at Bradford due to injury, while Grabban has been missing for a month with a hamstring problem.
Grayson told safc.com that both are making good progress and the Sunderland boss is excited to have the added competition for places.
He said: "[Lewis] is working well with the physios, it's a procedure we're going through, we don't rush any player back so we have them for the long, not the short-term. But he's making good progress and I'm sure he'll be back in a red and white shirt very soon.
"[Josh] is back training with us now. It was a big blow for the lad, he'd waited patiently for his opportunity, worked hard in pre-season, looked very good, strong and powerful. It was a big blow for us a team when we looking short at the top end of the pitch and for him as a person. When he's back there'll be great competition, I'll be able to look at my bench and have players who I can say, go and change the game.
"The competition for places should really come to the fore now, with players pushing each other. You saw the work rate at Preston, that's standard, the supporters demand it and I demand it. It's about getting the breaks, doing the right things, not gifting the opposition goals which we have done over the last few weeks, we've got to concentrate at both ends of the pitch."
Grayson also insisted that he will not rush Paddy McNair back to first team action, but expects him to make a big impact when he does return.
McNair will play 45 minutes for the U23's against Hertha Berlin on Tuesday night.
He said: "When you look at Paddy, he was a big signing at the time. He's a versatile player which is vital, they'll go and and play anywhere and give everything. When you're as athletic as he is, powerful, strong, good on the ball. His pedigree speaks for itself coming from Manchester United and as a Northern Ireland international.
"He's going to be welcomed back but like Duncan, we won't rush him back."
Watch the full interview here.