Positive team news in defence
The last time Sunderland left-back Bryan Oviedo was on international duty for a mid-week match, he was afforded a spot on the bench for the following Saturday Championship fixture to recuperate from the effects of turning out in Central America and a long-haul flight back to the UK.
But Oviedo will likely be available for selection this weekend for the visit of QPR as he’s suspended for Costa Rica’s final World Cup qualification game tomorrow night. The Black Cats defender will miss the game in Panama after picking up two yellow cards in his nation’s group fixtures.
No doubt Oviedo will be with the Costa Rica squad as they play out a celebration for making Russia 2018, but without taking to the pitch, hopefully he has a decent chance of being available for Saturday.
The big selection question ahead of the visit of Ian Holloway’s men this weekend then is whether Duncan Watmore will be afforded a starting spot. The inclusion of the RoadRunner from the start would surely lift the home crowd for this one.
McNair back in action this evening
Sunderland midfielder Paddy McNair makes his first competitive outing for over a year this evening as the Northern Ireland international is set to turn out for the Under-23s.
Elliot Dickman’s side make their bow in this season’s Premier League International Cup after reaching the final last term with McNair expected to make an appearance at the Stadium of Light.
McNair played on for 46 minutes after suffering serious knee ligament damage last September in a Premier League game against Hull City before being withdrawn.
The 22-year-old subsequently missed the rest of Sunderland’s slump to relegation after arriving from Manchester United in the summer of 2016, and he was absent from Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign which has Michael O’Neill’s men facing a two-legged play-off next month to make Russia 2018.
Speaking to safc.com, Black Cats boss Simon Grayson reckons McNair is just the ticket for the Championship:
I think when you look at Paddy who was quite a big signing 18 months ago, something like that, he’s a versatile player and they’re vital to your team - that can go and play in any position that you want them to and they’ll give everything. Someone as athletic as he is - 6ft 2, powerful, strong, good on the ball, with pedigree that speaks for itself coming from Manchester United and Northern Ireland international, he’s going to be welcome back.
Of Sunderland’s pair of returning long-term absentees, Watmore and McNair, the latter will feel most like a new signing as fans on Wearside have yet to see the best of the man who has only played a few games for the Black Cats; and as much as anything, because no one seems entirely sure what his best position will be still.
Hertha Berlin in town
Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin bring the best of their young prospects to the Stadium of Light tonight to face Sunderland’s Under-23s in the Premier League International Cup.
The Black Cats have been drawn in qualifying Group B alongside tonight’s visitors, Legia Warsaw and Leicester City having been finalists in the competition last season.
The International Cup consists of 12 Premier League 2 sides and 12 under-23 teams from elite academies across Europe.
The game is Hertha’s second visit to these shores in the competition having been beaten by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium a fortnight ago. The Foxes were dominant in that game as they strolled out 3-0 winners.
Look out for 19-year-old Sidney Freide in the middle this evening. The central midfielder is a regular for the German Under-19s and is attracting attention from clubs around Europe.
Turkish Under-19 international Muhammed Kiprit should lead the Hertha line having recently signed a new deal to keep him in Berlin after scoring 19 goals in 25 appearances last season in the Junior Bundesliga.
Fellow attacker, 22-year-old Davie Selke recently joined from RP Leipzig for 8.5m euros and has been getting back in shape with the U23s after injury, and might get a run out this evening too.
Massive Lads Fans in Gabon
He might have had a tough time of it over in Gabon lately after his country failed to qualify for the World Cup following a 3-0 defeat to Morocco at the weekend, but Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong has an active fan club in his home nation.
Here’s the latest recruits to the global red-and-white army who make up Ndong’s support delivering donations to a local hospital in Gabon.
Raymond Sawe who runs the Didier Ibrahim Ndong fan club told a Gabon newspaper that “this gesture is part of the social vision of the international player who is himself from disadvantaged neighbourhoods and does not forget where he comes from”.