The club captain was dismissed in the recent Tyne-Wear derby, but may well start for his side in their next fixture.
The Black Cats host Everton in an FA Cup quarter-finals replay on Tuesday night, and Martin O’Neill has admitted that there is real competition for places in the Stadium of Light starting XI.
“Probably for the first time with Lee coming back, with the exception of John O’Shea, we will have some genuine competition for places and that can only be good,” the Northern Irishman told The Telegraph.
“Someone will be disappointed, but there is no need for any general disappointment at this club. We didn’t play Phil Bardsley and Seb Larsson with Tuesday in mind and this win sets us up nicely. We’re going into the game full of confidence. We’ve kept the momentum going.
“Lee certainly comes back into contention. He’s the captain of the team and he has been a major player for us when he has played.”
The winner of Tuesday’s game will take on Liverpool in the semi-finals.
By Gareth McKnight