TONY Mowbray doesn't expect to have any of his injured players back and available for the play-off second leg at Luton, but revealed that Aji Alese is closest to a return.

Alese hasn't played for Sunderland since early March but has resumed light training, and although a return during the play-off campaign is unlikely, Mowbray hasn't completely ruled it out.

Dennis Cirkin missed the 2-1 first leg win over the Hatters with an ankle injury and isn't expected to be ready for Tuesday's return fixture. The game will also come too soon for Dan Ballard.

Sunderland medics will also have to closely monitor Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard after the duo picked up knocks on Saturday night.

There was some positive news on the injury front, though, with Niall Huggins returning to the squad and introduced late on for just his third appearance of the season.

"We don't know at the moment," Mowbray said of Pritchard and Roberts.

"Patrick has come off, which isn't good. Pritchard has taken a kick, so hopefully it's just that it needs to settle down. Hopefully it's one where it's a big bag of ice and he's fine to play.

"Everyone will be in tomorrow and we'll see whose ready, and then we'll train again on Monday."


Asked whether any injured players will be ready to return, Mowbray said: "Aji is the closest. He's on the grass with the physios but hasn't played for 10 weeks. It's really unlikely we're going to ask him to play after he hasn't played for 10 weeks just because he's 6ft 3, I don't think we're going to do that.

"But if he starts joining in the training with the team he might find himself on the bench and if we need to be hanging on and need a 6ft 3 guy in the middle of the defence to head some corners out then we might think of that, as we did with Niall Huggins tonight.

"My conversation with Niall was about having a really good pre-season and getting core fitness into his body so he doesn't keep breaking down and yet he wanted to be involved tonight and we had to use him.

"It's really difficult when someone has been out for two months to throw them in, so I don't see that happening with Aji.

"Ballard is not ready, Danny Batth still has a big pot on his leg, Ross Stewart is next season, so there are no 6ft3 footballers coming back. Embleton is going to be pre-season with his broken leg, Corry Evans is maybe Christmas, they're not coming back for next Tuesday."