Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes Hatem Ben Arfa could be back in action in the Carling Cup clash with Nottingham Forest later this month.
The French midfielder has not featured for the Magpies since October last year after suffering a badly broken leg against Manchester City and then sustaining ankle ligament damage during the club's ill-fated pre-season tour of the United States.
However, Pardew was pleasantly surprised by the physical condition in which he returned to training earlier this week and is hoping he can play some part in the third round tie at the City Ground on 20th September.
He said: "Hatem's progress has been better than we thought - he's certainly ahead of schedule.
"When he came back this week, we were not expecting him to be in perhaps as good a condition as he is in.
"I have earmarked the Forest game as maybe an opportunity for him to play a part in that game.
"We will have to see how he goes, but so far, his injury looks really good and his fitness looks good too."
Meanwhile, Pardew is hoping Leon Best can help ease the disappointment of the club's failure to land its big striking targets this summer.
The Magpies spent much of the seven months between Andy Carroll's January departure for Liverpool and the final day of the latest transfer window trying to identify and sign a replacement.
However, despite landing former West Ham forward Demba Ba, their hopes of adding another experienced goalscorer to the squad faded and died as the likes of Kevin Gameiro, Gervinho, Mevlut Erding, Modibo Maiga and Brian Ruiz were courted, but ultimately unsuccessfully.
In the meantime, Newcastle have enjoyed a hugely encouraging start to the season, and eased themselves into sixth place in the Barclays Premier League table before the break for international matches, courtesy of a double from forgotten man Best in a 2-1 win over Fulham.
The 24-year-old Republic of Ireland international's spell on Tyneside has been ravaged by injury, but his 10 top-flight starts to date have yielded an impressive eight goals.
Pardew said: "He's 24, Leon Best, and in his last game, he scored two goals in the Premier League. That's very, very difficult against a good, defensive, tight side.
"His record for me is very, very good and I hope that continues."