Former England defender Wayne Bridge could make his first start for Sunderland against Liverpool on Saturday.
Bridge has made three appearances as a substitute to date since making his loan move to the Stadium of Light from Manchester City in January, but could finally be in line for greater involvement this weekend as Kieran Richardson attempts to shake off a calf problem.
Manager Martin O'Neill said: "He would have to consider himself in contention. He has come here hoping at some stage or another he would be able to perform for us, so there is a strong possibility that he could get that position if Kieran doesn't make it."
He added: "He has been out a fairly lengthy time. Of course, he had that spell with West Ham last year, but he has done a significant amount of training, so in terms of fitness, I don't think that should be a problem now.
"I suppose it takes a little bit of time to get used to things, and I accept also there's such a thing as fitness and then match fitness, but we just have to cope with that."
Bridge is in contention with Richardson having suffered an injury late in the 1-1 derby draw at Newcastle on Sunday.
The former Manchester United player was being assessed on Friday morning, but his chances of playing look remote.
O'Neill said: "I will have a look at him this morning and see how he is. The scan has come up and the scan has been very good.
"He still feels a little bit of something there, so it might be a case of seeing how he is. But at the moment, I would say he is unlikely."