Michael Duberry has stepped up his rehabilitation from a recent knee injury and is closing in on a first-team return.
The Reading defender picked up the knock during the Royals' 2-2 draw with Tottenham in the FA Cup back on 5th January.
He had initially hoped to be back in contention for the Premier League encounter with his former club Chelsea three weeks later, but after failing to shake off the problem as quickly as expected, he has now been sidelined for seven matches.
The lay-off has come as a massive blow to Duberry, as with fellow centre-backs Ibrahima Sonko and Andre Bikey recently away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, he would have been presented with an ideal opportunity to establish himself in Steve Coppell's plans.
"I have been training for a week now and feel all right, so hopefully I'll play a game next Monday in the reserves," he told the Reading Evening Post.
"Saturday (against Middlesbrough) will probably come too soon. I might surprise a few people and do extremely well, then the manager might change his mind, but I think I need a reserve game under my belt.
"I remember talking weeks ago about, thinking I might be pushing for the Chelsea game, but every target I set myself didn't happen.
"The leg took quite long to heal. It has been frustrating sitting on the sidelines and watching opportunities pass and drift away and not be able to help the team.
"There was an opportunity for me with the Africa Cup of Nations and then getting injured in the last 10 seconds of injury-time and then six, seven weeks later here I am having to get ready for a reserve game and try and get on the bench."
Reading have lost all seven of the games which Duberry has been forced to watch from the stands and currently find themselves marooned in the relegation zone, one point adrift of safety.
Having already experienced the drop once during a spell with Leeds, the defender has warned his team-mates that they cannot afford to start believing that they are too good to go down.
"I don't think it's happening here, but sometimes at Leeds we felt we weren't one of the worst three teams," he admitted.
"But people get momentum and start pushing up while you lose momentum, like we have done now.
"Other teams like Sunderland are pushing up and scraping points, but we need that to take us to the end of the season.
"The best thing we can do now is worry about ourselves and make sure we get results. We can't affect what happens in other games.
"I know for so long the mentality of this club has been to just look to the next game and it is important to just focus on the next game and not worry about what's around the corner."