Health warning for Portsmouth ahead of Sunderland match-up

Sunderland are nearing a clean bill of health as they bid to close the gap on Pompey at the top of the League One table.

The Blues currently lead the race to be crowned champions by four points, with the Black Cats their nearest rivals.

Duncan Whatmore Picture: Kevin Brady

Duncan Whatmore Picture: Kevin Brady

Both teams have enjoyed an impressive 2018-19 season, suffering just two defeats between them to date in the league.

They go head-to-head for the first time this season when Sunderland visit Fratton Park on Saturday, December 22.

That promises to be a mouthwatering clash, with plenty at stake.

And as the clock ticks down on the match-up, Sunderland have been boosted by some positive injury news that they hope will stand them in good stead in the race for the League One title.

Highly-rated forward Duncan Whatmore made his first appearance of the season against Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy in mid-week.

In fact, it was the 24-year-old’s first outing in more than a year, after suffering a second ACL injury against Millwall in November 2017.

Lee Cattermole is back training after picking up a foot injury at the start of November and Charlie Wyke is making headway after picking up a knee injury against Burton in September.

Meanwhile, former Blues striker Chris Maguire is recovering from the rib injury he suffered ahead of the Black Cats’ FA Cup clash against Walsall.

The key quartet could feature against Pompey at Fratton Park.

And their timely returns from injury is something that excites manager Jack Ross.

Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, he said: ‘Chris is okay, trained yesterday.

‘Lee has trained a couple of days this week so all being well will come back into the squad for the Walsall game (FA Cup replay).

‘Obviously, he's been out for about a month but I've been really please with how he's looked in training.

‘Duncan has obviously just had his first game back, Charlie Wyke is back in full training.

‘We're getting there, we've still got Ethan Robson, Denver Hume and Donald Love out but we're getting close to the healthiest we've been all season.’

Ross added the possible return of forward duo Whatmore and Wyke would be like two new signings.

He added: ‘The clearest way of saying it is that if in January we signed Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore, everyone would say those were brilliant signings.

‘Having them back in that period will be a big bonus for us.

‘Charlie gives us something that we don't have from our other forward players.

‘I've spoken about Duncan and how he's a threat in behind that the others don't really do.’