Curtis Davies' hopes of forcing his way into the Aston Villa first XI have been hit by an injury setback.
The West Brom defender is currently on a season-long loan at Villa Park and the move is expected to be made permanent at the end of the campaign.
However, Davies has struggled to make an impact with Villa and on Friday he sustained a broken nose in training.
Manager Martin O'Neill had previously hinted Davies was close to earning a recall to his first-team plans after an unimpressive debut in Villa's League Cup defeat to Leicester in September.
And Davies had been earmarked for a place on the substitutes' bench for Saturday's Premier League clash with Sunderland but he did not travel to the Stadium of Light following his injury.
Meanwhile, O'Neill has revealed he has contract talks planned with defender Martin Laursen.
The Denmark international's current four-year deal runs out in the summer and he can sign a pre-contract with a foreign club in January.
But O'Neill is keen to secure the future of Laursen after a series of positive performances this season.
O'Neill said: "There are talks scheduled for the not-too-distant future with Martin."
The Villa boss also insists that it is not yet certain that another defender Olof Mellberg will be leaving for Juventus.
Mellberg - who is out of contract at the end of the season - has been repeatedly linked with the Italian club, but O'Neill is adamant that a decision is still to be made.
"Olof has not told me he has agreed to go to Italy," O'Neill added.