Ricky Sbragia is delighted to have Kieran Richardson back for Sunderland's trip to West Ham.
The key midfielder has missed two games through suspension and returns to the side with the Black Cats just three points above the drop zone.
Sbragia accepts that Sunderland have struggled in Richardson's absence and he hopes the 24-year-old will make an impact at Upton Park.
"Kieran's one of the top players at the club and we've missed him," said the manager.
"He's been excellent for us this season, he's a key player. He gives us energy, he's got great mobility and he can get us a goal.
"He's trained really well over the last couple of weeks and I've no doubts about his fitness. It's not a case of he's been suspended and had a holiday, he's worked hard and he's looking forward to the game."
Sunderland have collected just two points from their last five games and face a difficult run-in with Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea still to visit the Stadium of Light.
Sbragia realises their away form must improve and he is targeting at least a draw from the clash with West Ham.
He said: "We cannot afford to lose the game. West Ham are a good team and they've a good home record, but we have to be more adventurous, we have to try to cause them problems.
"It is a hugely important game - all of our remaining games will be - and I have to try to pick a team that will get us something.
"The longer we go without a win, the more nervous people will get. It's going to be tight, with the teams at the bottom beating each other, and I'd be happy if we get out of it with a game to spare.
"We don't want to be going into our last game of the season, against Chelsea, knowing that we need something."