Cheick Tiote is hoping to get another start for Newcastle United in the Wear-Tyne derby on Sunday.
Tiote made his first start since New Year’s Day in Sunday’s 6-2 win over Norwich City – although he was substituted at half-time.
It was good for me to be back. I had 45 minutes (against Norwich), so I have to have some more time.Cheick Tiote
Asked about his long absence, Tiote said: “It’s not easy. You have to work hard to come back.
“I just stay positive and do my work to get back fit and play football.
“It was good for me to be back. I had 45 minutes (against Norwich), so I have to have some more time.
“After another game, I think I will be in my best (fitness).”
Newcastle were propping up the Premier League, and without a win, ahead of the Norwich game which brought some much-needed relief to the team.
“It was very important to get more confidence,” said Tiote, who was sent off for a challenge on Steven Fletcher the last time the Magpies claimed a point on Wearside three years ago.
“We needed to start from somewhere, and (the Norwich game) was the start for everyone.
“Now we have a big game coming up, and I think we need to be ready for that.
“It was an important win. We had to deal with the pressure. It wasn’t easy.
“We understood the circumstances. It was massive for everyone.
“I think we can build on that on Sunday.
“We take that and go to the next game against Sunderland.
“I know it’s not easy in any Premier League game, but this one is more special for the fans and the players.
“It will be a tough, tough game.”
Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum scored four of Newcastle’s goals against Norwich.
And Wijnaldum – who has experience of Holland’s fierce derbies from his time at PSV Eindhoven – now has Sunderland in his sights.
Ivory Coast international Tiote said: “It was brilliant for him to score four goals.
“He’s helped the team a lot, and it showed on the pitch. We’re happy for him.”
Wijnaldum is Newcastle’s top scorer so far this season with six goals.
Meanwhile, United will be backed by 2,800 fans at the Stadium of Light for the 153rd meeting between the two clubs.