Sunderland welcome back duo
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce will welcome back two of his key men for Saturday's crucial Barclays Premier League trip to Bolton.
Striker Nicklas Bendtner was ineligible for last weekend's trip to parent club Arsenal under the terms of his loan agreement, while full-back Phil Bardsley sat out the final game of his four-match ban at the Emirates Stadium.
Bendtner in particular was a miss in the capital having scored his first goal for the club in the 2-2 draw with West Brom a fortnight earlier.
With Bruce not yet ready to pitch summer signings Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won in from the start, it was left to diminutive Benin international Stephane Sessegnon to lead the line in the 2-1 defeat by the Gunners.
Bendtner's return at the Reebok will give his side a new focus, and the manager could hardly be more delighted to have the Dane back at his disposal having seen signs that he is ready to make a similar impact to the one Danny Welbeck made last season during his loan spell from Manchester United.
He said: "He's been immense. Nick has been the one who has settled better than anybody and because of the way he is and the confidence he portrays in himself he has come up here and thought, 'I am just going to enjoy it' and he has enjoyed playing.
"He's a bit similar to Danny Welbeck, even though Danny took a little bit of time to settle. You can just see Nick enjoying coming and playing here and being given the opportunity to play week in, week out. He hadn't played for 12 months, so I think his contribution has been terrific."
Bardsley's return too is a boost with the Scotland international full-back having spent a staggering six weeks on the sidelines. The defender was charged on video evidence with stamping on Chelsea's Juan Mata during the Blues' 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light on September 10.
However, as he had already been sent off during the derby defeat by Newcastle earlier in the season, he was handed a four-match ban which spanned the most recent international break.
Bruce said: "It's been the longest suspension I can ever remember a player getting. It's gone on for weeks."