Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is hoping Nedum Onuoha will soon return to the first-team fold.
The defender has recently returned to action following a thigh strain but will find it very difficult to get back into a City back-line that has been bolstered by the arrival of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott.
Onuoha, 23, signed a new five-year contract at Eastlands during the summer, and Hughes is glad to have him back in contention after he played a full 90 minutes against the United Arab Emirates last week.
"Nedum's doing very well," he told the club's official website. "He had about 30 minutes for the reserves just prior to the trip away, and then he backed that up with the full game last week in Abu Dhabi.
"Time on the training ground and time out on the pitch is exactly what he needs now to get him up to the level he was at the back-end of last season, because he was playing exceptionally well until then.
"He's fit now, but the key thing is to maintain that level of fitness and strength.
"It helps when Nedum trains and plays regularly, if he misses a game or a day's training he can get little niggles so the important thing for him is that he gets a good run of regular training, maybe the odd reserve game and then we hope at the end of all this first-team games."
The Nigerian-born star formed a solid partnership with Richard Dunne, now of Aston Villa, at the back-end of last season, and Hughes hopes he can return to the form that saw him hold down a regular place in the side.
"Last season he was able to maintain his fitness and he got a longer run of games than he had been able to before," he added.
"We've got to get him back to that level, back to a point where he can sustain the intensity of his training and cope with games at the same time."
The Blues' next game is a trip to Liverpool on Saturday, as they look to continue their excellent start to the Premier League season and pile more woe on Rafa Benitez's side.