Sunderland's preparations for this weekend's match against QPR were given a boost this morning with news that midfielder James McClean has signed a new deal with the club.
The 22-year-old, who joined from Derry City last summer, has put pen-to-paper on a new three-year deal.
Speaking ahead of his side's clash with QPR tomorrow, boss Martin O'Neill said: "He has done brilliantly here. He's got to a stage now where teams are very concerned - opposition teams are concerned with him - and that can only been good news in the sense that it shows the sort of improvement he's made. So we're really very, very pleased indeed."
Another bonus for Sunderland will be the return of top-scorer Stephane Sessegnon. The forward has served his three match ban for the red card he received in last month's Tyne-Wear derby, and is expected to be re-instated to the starting line-up.
However, the Black Cats will be without Lee Cattermole (suspended) and Kieran Richardson (calf injury), while John O'Shea faces a late fitness test on a hamstring injury.
Rangers will travel to the Stadium of Light in high spirits after their stunning midweek victory over Liverpool. Mark Hughes' team came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, with all three goals coming in the final 13 minutes. The win also moved QPR out of the Premier League's bottom three.
Amongst the scorers on Wednesday night was former Sunderland man, Djibril Cisse. The striker had a season-long loan spell with the club in 2008, and returns to Wearside tomorrow with two other former Black Cats - Anton Ferdinand and Tommy Smith.
O'Neill attended QPR's game with Liverpool, and said: "Queens Park Rangers did very, very well indeed to fight back from 2-0 behind looking dead and buried at one stage."
- Sunderland have beaten QPR in the last four Premier League matches between the two teams
- The Black Cats have won 16 points at home from a possible 21 since Martin O'Neill took charge
- Rangers have not kept a clean sheet for 20 league games