Loan signing Marcos Alonso could be handed a Sunderland debut in Sunday's FA Cup third round tie against Carlisle.
The full-back, who joined the club from Fiorentina for the rest of the season earlier this week, is in line to be involved as manager Gus Poyet looks for a response to Wednesday's dismal 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat by Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light.
Central defender Wes Brown is available after serving a three-match ban and partner John O'Shea could return after sitting out the same three fixtures with a shoulder problem but goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has had to delay shoulder surgery which could rule him out of much of the remainder of the campaign because of illness.
Poyet isl preparing his team for the first of two cup ties inside three days - Sunderland face Manchester United in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening - bemused by the scheduling.
He said: "I still don't understand how you can play football again in two days, I don't.
"I keep saying to the people in charge that if you want to see quality and the best players on the pitch, you need to give them a chance to recover.
"If not, then you make changes and people get upset and say you don't care about one cup or the other. They invent things and they put us as responsible when the responsible ones are them for putting the fixtures up.
"Saying that, again they are professional players, Premier League players. We will see. Me, I am looking forward to the game.
"I remember one of my first games in the cup with Chelsea, there were so many reporters there taking pictures and I didn't understand why.
"Then they told me, 'They are trying to see if you are going to be the bad ones, the news on Monday, if you are going to be in the newspaper because you were knocked out by a League Two team or whatever, and it's up to you to make sure that doesn't happen'.
"We will see who is in the pictures on Monday."
Carlisle trio Max Ehmer, Tom Lawrence and Courtney Meppen-Walter are all doubtful and midfielder Paul Thirlwell is definitely out.
It is a dream tie for Cumbrians manager Graham Kavanagh, who won the Championship title as a player with Sunderland in 2007 and has been in charge of Carlisle for less than four months after stepping up from assistant to replace Greg Abbott in September.
Kavanagh was restricted to 15 appearances during his two-and-a-half years as a midfielder for Sunderland before seeing out his playing days at Carlisle, where he arrived initially on loan in 2008.
"On a personal level it's great for me," the former Middlesbrough, Stoke, Cardiff and Wigan midfielder said.
"I still live over that way and Sunderland is a club I have close to my heart.
"I still look out for their results and a lot of my friends are Mackems.
"I got a whole load of text messages within minutes of the draw coming through so there's definitely a lot of interest.
"It will be a proud moment when I'm stood in the dugout and waiting for kick off. It's a wonderful venue and the fans were unbelievable with me when I was there.
"I didn't play as regularly as I would have liked because I picked up an injury about six months into it, but they were top drawer whenever I pulled the shirt on.
"Having said all of that, I'm going there to try to win. It's not just about enjoying the experience, it's about trying to do our job and get our club through to the next round."