Sunderland boss Simon Grayson could welcome back several recognised first team players to the Black Cats starting line-up this weekend, as Cardiff City travel to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The Ripon-born manager made six changes for his side's 3-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Everton on Wednesday night, leaving out goalkeeper Robin Ruiter, defensive pairing Marc Wilson and Bryan Oviedo and midfield trio Lee Cattermole, Callum McManaman and Jonny Williams.
It came as no surprise that the former Preston North End boss was keen to rest players following the fixture pile up, and admitted following the cup exit that he had done so with the Bluebirds' visit in mind.
“It was always going to be difficult with the team we put out – we certainly had one eye on the weekend”, the Wearsiders' manager told the Sunderland Echo after the defeat.
The six that were saved for the Championship high-flyers' visit could all be set to take the field again this weekend, with promising signs shown during Sunderland's last second tier fixture at Hull City.
However, those who return could finally be rejoined by summer signing and creative-hub Aiden McGeady, who has not featured for the Black Cats since the side's 3-0 defeat at Barnsley before the international break.
The 31-year-old seems to have shaken off the hamstring issue which has kept him sidelined since the beginning of this month, and the Republic of Ireland intentional will be a welcome return for Grayson.
However, the fixture should come too soon for both Duncan Watmore and Josh Maja, who are coming towards the end of their road of recovery.
Everton loanee pairing Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway are both available again following their ineligibility on Wednesday, however whether the Sunderland boss deems either suitable, with the preferred duo of Lamine Kone and Wilson becoming evident, remains to be seen.
In the other dugout, Cardiff boss Neil Warnock could look to freshen up his attack as the Welsh side look for their first win since the end of August.
Liam Feeney, Danny Ward and Lee Tomlin all staked their claims for starting line-up contention during the Bluebirds' dramatic 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday last time out, whilst midfielder Craig Bryson will be hoping he is able to retain his spot after the 68-year-old manager brought him back into the fold against the Owls.
However, the Sheffield-born boss may well Danish forward Kenneth Zohore from his starting XI, with the 23-year-old failing to find the back of the net since his side's opening day win at Burton Albion.
Like Watmore and Maja for Sunderland, the Championship clash is expected to pass Scottish defender Callum Paterson by, as the summer signing continues to build up his fitness after receiving from knee surgery.
Sunderland XI: Ruiter; Matthews, Kone, Wilson, Oviedo; Cattermole, Ndong, McManaman, Williams, Honeyman; Vaughan
Cardiff City: Etheridge; Peltier, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Ralls, Gunnarsson; Mendez-Laing, Bryson, Tomlin; Ward
The Wearsiders have not yet secured three points in the league at the Stadium of Light this calendar year, and it would be difficult to see the Black Cats bucking the trend when Cardiff come to town.
The third-placed Championship side may be enduring a slight downturn of form themselves, however nothing in comparison to the six-game winless league streak Grayson's men currently find themselves in.
Sunderland seem to struggle with the pressure of playing in front of their own fans, and that looks set to continue this weekend with the visit of the Bluebirds.
Score Prediction: Sunderland 0-2 Cardiff City