MARCUS Browne is in contention for a return to the Oxford United squad to face Sunderland on Saturday.

But there is a new injury doubt over Mark Sykes, following a collision with the woodwork in training earlier this week.

Browne has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain he sustained in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Bury last month.

The 21-year-old was one of United's best performers in the early months of the season, but had been struggling with fatigue in the weeks before the injury.

And boss Karl Robinson hopes the enforced break will mean a big boost to the U's.

He said: "If it’s the Marcus Browne from the beginning of the season it is.

"He’s got a lot to do to get back into the team, so now he’s got a different challenge he’s not had since he’s been at Oxford United.

"The message to Jordan (Graham) and Gavin (Whyte) is don’t let him take your shirt. There’s a competitive edge there.

"I wish we had had this competition for places at the beginning of the season, my job would have been an awful lot easier."

If Browne is fit enough to make the squad, United will have to make a decision on which of their loan players misses out.

They have six - Browne, Graham, Jerome Sinclair, Samir Carruthers, Luke Garbutt and Ahmed Kashi - one more than is permitted in a matchday squad.

There is one new player in the treatment room, although at this stage it is unclear whether Sykes will be ruled out this weekend.

Robinson said: "Sykesy scored a goal in training on Tuesday and went into the post, so we’re assessing his knee."