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Five Sunderland players return to first-team training – how will it affect Johnson at the weekend?

According The Northern Echo, Sunderland have five players returning from injury this week ahead of their Papa John’s Trophy final against Tranmere this Sunday.

The news comes at the perfect time for Sunderland. Despite being unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, the Black Cats will be without three first-team players for the final this weekend.

Dion Sanderson and Carl Winchester both started for Sunderland in midweek as they triumphed 2-0 over fellow promotion chasers Portsmouth at Fratton Park, but along with Jake Vokins, the trio will be ineligible to play in the final.

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All three players have played for other clubs during the duration of the competition and cannot feature for two teams. Sanderson has turned out for Wolves U23s, Winchester for Forest Green Rovers and Vokins for Southampton U23s since the start of the season.

However, Sunderland will potentially have five players to call upon who have not featured in recent weeks. Denver Hume, Bailey Wright, Benji Kimpioka, Ross Stewart and Grant Leadbitter have all been ruled out through injury over the past few games but will be in contention to feature at Wembley.

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Conor McLaughlin has also returned to light training but the report states that this weekend’s fixture against Tranmere may be too much too soon for the right-back.

Tom Flanagan will also be a player who manager Lee Johnson will consider playing from the off, having made his comeback from injury at half-time against Portsmouth on Tuesday evening after missing 12 of the previous 14 games through injury.

The news will give Johnson a headache ahead of this weekend, with five players theoretically looking to fill only three vacant roles. Hume could come in at left-back due to Vokins’ absence, although he would be competing with Callum McFadzean who started on Tuesday. Wright is likely to replace Sanderson in the centre of defence, whereas seasoned veteran Leadbitter could deputise as Winchester sits out the final.

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