Duncan Watmore could force his way back into Sunderland’s team against QPR. Picture credit: : Richard Sellers/EMPICS Sport

Sunderland manager Simon Grayson has food for thought ahead of his side’s Championship fixture against QPR this weekend.

The Black Cats will welcome back eight senior players after the international break, while the under-23s side produced an accomplished display to beat Hertha Berlin at the Stadium of Light last night.

Elliott Dickman’s youngsters won 2-0 in the Premier League International Cup, courtesy of goals from Paddy McNair and captain Tom Beadling.

Duncan Watmore, Jack Rodwell and Brendan Galloway all featured alongside some of the club’s brightest academy graduates.

But which players caught the eye and put their names in the mix for a senior call-up?

Here are three players who stood out.

Adam Bale

The energetic midfielder produced a tireless shift for 90 minutes and certainly took his opportunity to impress.

Bale, 19, captained the under-18s team last season but missed the second half of the campaign with a knee injury.

Even so, the teenager didn’t look out of place against the Germans.

Bale was comfortable in possession and made several important tackles in the midfield engine room.

If he stays fit, a season with the under-23s should provide a good stepping stone for Bale’s promising career.

Paddy McNair

You wouldn’t have thought that the Northern Irish international was playing his first competitive game for 10 months.

McNair hadn’t featured since suffering a season-ending knee injury last November but clocked up a solid 45 minutes last night.

The 22-year-old was deployed in the centre of midfield and opened the scoring on 37 minutes with a looping header.

McNair’s power and strength were invaluable in the middle of the park, and he displayed some neat passing before being replaced at half-time.

It’s probably still too early to talk about a first-team return just yet, however judging by this performance it may not be too far away.

Duncan Watmore

Watmore took another step towards full fitness after a lively first-half performance.

The 22-year-old started the game in a lone striker role and barely gave the visitors’ backline a moment of peace.

Watmore appeared the most likely player to break the deadlock, and it was the forward’s effort which led to McNair’s opener on 37 minutes.

The striker was withdrawn at half-time but will still be expected to play some part against QPR on Saturday.