ELLIOT Embleton is set to take a major step towards his Sunderland return with an appearance for the Under-21s on Friday night.

Michael Beale says Embleton will only play 45 minutes against Leicester City's youngsters on Friday night, but providing the midfielder comes through unscathed, he'll soon be in contention for first team involvement.

Embleton has endured a rotten run of injuries, with the 24-year-old having spent the vast majority of last season on the sidelines. He joined Derby County in the summer transfer window in the hope that he'd benefit from regular football but that loan move was cut short after he suffered a serious thigh injury that required surgery.

Rehab has gone well and Beale is excited at the prospect of having Embleton available.


"Elliot will play in the B team tomorrow, 45 minutes so it's good to see Elliot back. After that he'll be available for selection which is really positive," said the head coach.

"I think we have to respect the fact he's missed a lot of football and give him a chance. Let's see how tomorrow night's 45 minutes go. There's one thing training with the group, there's another thing getting your bearings on a big pitch again and getting those lungs burning again.

"They are all the things that Elliot has got to go through, but in terms of the training I've seen a player who can really add something to the team. He's a local boy as well and knows what it means to play for our team.

"The last few months have been really frustrating for him. We feel our staff know his body here. We know him so it was important that he stayed here.

"We're in the second week in Feb so there's not a lot of the season to go, but the most important thing is that Elliot stays fit now and can then get rhythm back in his football. I think he's a player that does better with rhythm, most players are, when you are playing and get a rhythm.

"We know the technical ability we can bring to the group."

Dan Ballard is expected to be fit for Saturday's game against Plymouth despite his injury scare late on against Middlesbrough. The game will come too soon for deadline day signing Callum Styles, but he's closing in on full fitness after having his appendix removed.

Beale said: "Dan will train tomorrow and providing there's no issues, he'll play.

"Paddy (Roberts) has had a few more days training into him which is a positive, and the same with Romaine (Mundle). Callum Styles is back out running now, and will probably rejoin the group in the middle of next week providing everything goes to plan."