Sunderland U23s take on Leicester City in their final Premier League International Cup group fixture this evening, with Wales international midfielder Jonny Williams expected to start his first game in red and white since before Chris Coleman was appointed as manager in November.
The playmaker - who arrived on loan in the summer from Crystal Palace - has spent the last several months out with a shoulder injury sustained in our 2-2 home draw with Millwall last year.
Having returned back to training last week, Williams will be keen to get back out on the pitch as he seeks a return to full fitness in time for Sunderland’s crucial run towards the end of the season.
In an interview last Thursday with SAFC.com, the former Ipswich loanee gave an update on his current state, and suggested that he’d be a part of tonight’s U23s squad. He said:
When I first suffered the injury I feared I would be out until April, so to be back in training in January is a real positive for me and hopefully I can feature in a lot of the games before the end of the season.
I’ll need to build my fitness through training and hopefully I’ll play in an under-23 game next week, but after that I’ll be good to go and ready to help the team.
There is also an outside chance that Ivory Coast international defender Lamine Kone will feature as he makes his comeback from a knee injury which has kept him out of action since the start of November. Kone, like Williams, has been back in training for a short amount of time and has yet to get back out onto the pitch in a proper game of football.
There are other first-teamers - like Brendan Galloway - who have barely kicked a ball in months, though whether Sunderland opt to use this fixture as an opportunity to give them much-needed minutes on the pitch remains unclear.
In the likelihood that Williams gets through the game unscathed, he’ll be expected to make up part of the squad that Chris Coleman will take to St. Andrews for our important relegation six-pointer with Birmingham City in a week’s time.
If Sunderland run out victors tonight they’ll finish top of their group, but Leicester are no pushovers and they too will be hoping to secure their place in the latter stages of the competition with a win this evening at the Stadium of Light.
Leicester U23s are second in the Premier League 2 Division One table, and before losing in their last outing against Oldham in the Checkatrade Trophy were on an unbeaten run of nineteen games.
The two sides last met in November, in the league - a 0-0 draw at Holme Park.
Be sure to check back at RokerReport.com after the full-time whistle blows this evening, as we’ll be providing a full match summary and player ratings for the game.
Anyone wishing to attend tonight’s game can do so by paying on the gate at the Stadium of Light, with entry priced at £3 for adults and £1 for U16s and over 65s.