SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: Benjamin Kimpioka of Sunderland (C) celebrates scoring the fourth Sunderland goal during the Checkatrade trophy match between Sunderland and Newcastle United U21 at Stadium of Light on January 8, 2019 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images)

Sunderland face another tough test in League One this weekend. The Black Cats travel to in-form Scunthorpe, looking to close the gap at the top of the table. Their hosts have won their last four games, which has seen them move up the table and away from the relegation places. The game at Glanford Park has all the ingredients to be an exciting encounter.

A Tough Test Awaits Sunderland

Lee Cattermole Returns

Jack Ross will welcome back Lee Cattermole this weekend. The combative midfielder has been missing through suspension. His return will be a big boost for the Black Cats after the 30-year-old missed the last two games. Both games were drawn and Sunderland missed his influence in the middle of the park.

Latest on Josh Maja

Sunderland’s leading goalscorer should be back in the squad for this game. The 20-year-old missed last weekend’s home draw with Luton due to illness. This fuelled the fire of speculation that he was about to leave the club. As of yet, the Josh Maja saga has yet to move forward.

Celtic are reportedly the latest in a long line of clubs interested. It is believed that the Scottish champions were willing to part with cash plus two players on loan. However, Ross dismissed any idea of bringing a Celtic player in during the transfer window.

Other reports are suggesting that Maja, who has an agent with strong links in Germany, could be set to sign a pre-contract agreement. Maja, who is out of contract in the summer, can agree a deal, spend the rest of the season at Sunderland and then move on.

Ross Wants Set Pieces to Improve

Ross and his coaching staff are frustrated by the lack consistency in their set plays. In both defending and attacking scenarios, Sunderland have not done enough. Some crucial goals have been conceded from set plays and not enough has been created when attacking. Ross advised that his coaching team have worked hard on this and hopes it will improve soon.

Recent Form

Sunderland go into this match unbeaten in their last six. However, three of those have been draws in the league. They have drawn the most games in the division so far this season. They have also scored in every league game.

Scunthorpe have won their last four games. Two home wins and two away wins have helped transform their season. United will now be looking to add third-placed Sunderland to their list. However, last time the two teams faced, Sunderland were comfortable 3-0 winners.

Team News

Sunderland welcome back Lee Cattermole and Josh Maja. Duncan Watmore could also feature having been rested against Luton. Adam Matthews is pushing for a recall at right back and the form of Luke O’Nien should keep the Welsh international on the bench. Captain George Honeyman remains a doubt.

United boss Stuart McCall has managed to keep a largely settled side of late. All but one of their new five signings this month have had to settle for a place on the bench. McCall advised that all of his new players are ready should anyone show signs of a drop in standards.

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