Ciaran Clark could hand Aston Villa a welcome fitness boost and return to full training next week.
The versatile 22-year-old has been out for six weeks having suffered a setback in his initial recovery from a ligament injury sustained at Newcastle in February.
Clark's absence has been another blow for struggling Villa, who have also been without defender Richard Dunne due to injury.
But manager Alex McLeish has confirmed Republic of Ireland international Clark is close to making a comeback to complete training.
"He suffered a wee setback," said the Villa boss in the Birmingham Mail. "I think next week it will be six weeks since he was injured.
"We felt it might be about four, but the setback stretched it out a wee bit. But he is now running and kicking the ball.
"He is not doing any blocking work yet, as he has still got a bit of tenderness in the knee.
"But I would say in about a week's time we should be able to evaluate whether he comes back with the group."