Sunderland hoping for major fitness boost ahead of West Bromwich Albion game

Sunderland face West Brom at the Stadium of Light next Monday in the Championship.
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That’s after the Black Cats defeated Millwall 3-0 at home last Saturday with goals from Amad Diallo, Alex Pritchard and Ellis Smims handing Tony Mowbray three points.

After the game, Sunderland’s head coach provided an update on injuries. Here, we take you through the latest news on each:

Ross Stewart and Dan Ballard

Ross StewartRoss Stewart
Ross Stewart
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Mowbray expects Ross Stewart to be available when Sunderland face West Brom next Monday – and says that Dan Ballard isn’t far behind.

Mowbray opted not to include Stewart, who returned to full training on Thursday, in the match day squad as the Black Cats secured a 3-0 win over Millwall.

The Scot made his return in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Middlesbrough on Wednesday, clearing the way for him to make a competitive return against Carlos Corberan’s much-improved side.

"At the end of the day what matters is my relationship with Ross and with the medical department, where trust is really important,” Mowbray said.

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"The medical department thought it was dangerous to pick him. If he started or came off the bench and had to come off again, your questions would be about whether it was worth the risk we'd taken. I think he needs to have trained for a week - we've got a bounce game against Middlesbrough on Wednesday and we might give him some minutes in that.

"He was chomping at the bit and he think he's ready, so we hopefully by next Monday he will be ready.

"We don't think Dan Ballard is too far behind either - someone just said in the dressing room there's two of our very best players, we can only get better. Let's hope that proves to be the case."

Edouard Michut

Mowbray has confirmed that Edouard Michut remains unavailable for selection, but remains hopeful that the situation could change over the festive period.

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Michut has been absent since the 1-1 draw with Luton Town, a game in which he delivered arguably his best performance yet when replacing Corry Evans late in the game.

Mowbray had been giving serious consideration to starting him at Huddersfield Town days later, but the injury meant that plan never came to fruition. The PSG loanee has continued to feel the effects of that injury throughout the World Cup break, and though the player himself is upbeat there is as of yet no guarantee as to when he will be back.

The Sunderland head coach says it's a frustrating period for everyone, particularly given that he feels Michut could offer him a very welcome point of difference in his midfield.

"It's just dragging on a bit longer than we thought it would," Mowbray explained.

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"It's a bit of everything really and to be honest it's been a bit of a mystery for everyone, it's a problem in his leg but we're not sure if it's come from his groin or his thigh, or around the knee. We've had it scanned and looked at it again - Edouard told me today that he thinks it'll be fine next week, so let's hope that is the case.

"He is a real talent, and it's frustrating for everyone that he hasn't been able to stay fit and get out on the pitch more often. He missed pre-season with injury and he's just picked up a few niggles off the back of that - it's just stopped him from getting any real consistency.

"He is very talented and a different type of midfielder, he can carry the ball and has a wonderful range of passing. He of course needs to get to grips with the physicality of the Championship, but he'll bring a real competitive edge when it comes to places in midfield.

"He gives me a different option. We've got Embo or Pritch who prefer to play a little higher, then you've got Corry Evans, Dan Neil and Jay Matete [who operate a bit deeper]. It's an area where I feel we could do with another option, he can pick a pass and drive with the ball. He can try to dictate the game from a slightly deeper position on the pitch."

Niall Huggins

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Niall Huggins is in contention to feature after his excellent comeback at Birmingham City, but Mowbray added that he can afford to be patient with the youngster after such a long spell on the sidelines.

"He was fantastic against Birmingham, we only planned for him to play 60 minutes but he wanted to stay on and he was doing so well for us," Mowbray said.

"His enthusiasm and his quality - he's a very welcome addition. What he does have is a lot of competition, both Aji and Dennis out on the left and Trai and Lynden on the right, Luke O'Nien can play there as well. He has to stay fit, build his robustness every day and if he does that, I'm sure he'll feature plenty moving forward."

Bailey Wright and Jewison Bennette

Both Bailey Wright and Jewison Bennette have been at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for Australia and Costa Rica respectively.

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Bennette’s Costa Rica failed to make it out of the group but the Sunderland youngster was pictured enjoying the tournament following his country’s exit.

Wright’s Australia did make it into the last 16 but came up against Lionel Messi’s Argentina and were knocked out. Both Wright and Bennette are expected back on Wearside in the coming days and could be available for Monday’s game.