Victor Anichebe is back in training and has an outside chance of returning to Sunderland’s squad for the crucial Premier League trip to his old club West Bromich Albion.
The Black Cats talisman has missed the last four games after damaging his hamstring in the 4-1 mauling at Burnley on New Year’s Eve.
He has sat out the two FA Cup clashes with the Clarets, as well as the league games with Liverpool and Stoke at the Stadium of Light.
“Victor is doing some running,” said boss David Moyes. “There is a chance he could join in training this week.
“He’s not trained with the team up to this point.”
Sunderland have looked light up front in Anichebe’s absence and have scored only once in open play in 2017.
Anichebe, the joint second top scorer with three goals, has proved not just a great foil for leading marksman Jermain Defoe but a focal point for the team.
And his appearance in the squad on Saturday – even if it’s just among the substitutes – would be a huge boost for Sunderland.
Steven Pienaar, another influential figure, who has been out in the opening weeks of 2017, could also feature.
The veteran midfielder has also been sidelined since the Turf Moor defeat on New Year’s Eve.
“Steven is doing a little bit of running as well and hopefully they’ll have a chance of joining in training before the end of the week,” said Moyes.
The possible return of the experienced duo comes just as the squad have suffered another casualty.
Jack Rodwell missed last night’s FA Cup third round replay defeat with a knee injury sustained in the 3-1 loss to Stoke at the weekend.
The midfielder has shown up well in the heart of the midfield following his comeback against Liverpool on New Year Bank Holiday Monday.
“Jack has a medial knee ligament injury,” said Moyes. “He was given a scan on Monday.
“He got it in the game on Saturday, buit the scan has not come up with anything so I am hoping it shouldn’t keep Jack out too long.
“Having Jack out [last night] was a blow, but the scan hasn’t revealed a big problem so he may just have to keep off it for a week or so then see how he is.”