LEE Cattermole faces his first game in three months this weekend when Sunderland’s skipper takes part in a training ground practice match.
The 22-year-old has been on the sidelines since Christmas with a back problem which has needed rest to prevent it becoming a stress fracture.
Sunderland have missed the influential midfielder but he takes the first steps on his comeback on Saturday morning with an in-house training game at the Academy of Light.
Cattermole is also expected to play in Sunderland’s reserve clash at Manchester United next Thursday and has an outside chance of being involved for Liverpool’s visit to Wearside three days later.
Sunderland’s trip to Manchester City on April 3 is a more likely return for the ex-Middlesbrough player, whose injury stemmed from a innocuous knee to the back.
“We’re going to have a practice game in training on Saturday involving most of the squad, and that will give some of the returning players chance to get a little match fitness,” said Bruce.
“Catts is working with a personal fitness trainer at the moment, but he will play in the game this weekend and if he comes through that OK, we will look at involving him in the reserves against Man U.
“He has a chance of being in the squad for the Liverpool game, but then there is a fortnight before we play Man City and we will hope to get another couple of games into him in that time, so he will be ready to face City.””