With Gavin McCann, James Milner and Steven Davis set to return and Craig Gardner and Lee Hendrie's injuries not as bad as feared, Aston Villa manager David O'Leary will be like a child in a sweet shop as he ponders his team for the FA Cup clash with Manchester
City on Sunday. And the week just got better for O'Leary yesterday with the news that Eric DjembaDjemba is still AWOL.
While O'Leary is seething at the Cameroon international's refusal to return to Body-moor Heath, it is a blessing in disguise, as his perform-ances in Villa's midfield have not been helpful.
Harmony within the dressing room will be far easier to maintain without the presence of an inconsequential footballer with a bad attitude but if Djemba-Djemba is the proverbial bad apple, then Aaron Hughes must be a manager's dream.
His performance level and humble attitude to his profession are an alien concept to Djemba-Djemba.
Hughes, who was signed for £200,000 less than Cameroon's version of Howard Hughes, has proved to be a terrific acquisition to Villa's squad since his arrival from Newcastle United in the summer.
He has already chalked up 27 appearances and is salivating over the prospect of facing Manchester City in Sunday's fifth-round tie for a place in the last eight.
The 26-year-old Northern Ireland international has an impressive FA Cup pedigree from his decade at Newcastle, but he has yet to clear that final hurdle.
The eloquent defender didn't make the cut for either of the Magpies' final appearances in 1998 and 1999. However, he appeared in the 1999 semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, was on the bench 12 months previously and also faced up to Chelsea in 2000. The aristocrats from London won 2-1 that day, fortuitously in Hughes' opinion before beating Villa in the final.
A quarter-final appearance in 2002 has only whetted Hughes' appetite to finally push on and he is hoping some of his lucky FA Cup charms can rub off on his new club.
"It would be fantastic if we could reach the final, but that is a long way off yet and we have a tough game against Manchester City," said Hughes. "However, we have proved we are more than capable of matching anyone in the league on our day.
"We played extremely well against Arsenal and Chelsea at Villa Park and we have to try to use that advantage on Sunday.
"We have slipped up at home in the Premiership, whereas we have been far more consistent on the road, apart from one or two blips.
"But I don't think that will have any bearing on this tie, as this is a one-off game and a nice break from the Premiership.
"Stuart Pearce [the City manager] has got his team playing a good brand of football, but this gives us a good chance to progress."
The Northern Ireland international will be trying to shackle Andrew Cole and Villa old-boy Darius Vassell, who ran Villa's defence ragged in the absence of the injured Hughes during a 3-1 Premiership victory in October.
Hughes is a traditionalist who is still in love with the FA Cup and the world's most famous club tournament still ignites his passion.
"You always get a special buzz when you play in the FA Cup, as it is a fantastic tournament," he admitted. "We need to improve our home form and what better place to start than against Manchester City on Sunday?
"I have got to make up for some major disappointments such as the semi-final defeat against Chelsea in 2000.
"Arguably, we should have won on the day, as we played really well. That made it even more disappointing and no one remembers a losing semi-finalist.
"You want to get to the final as it is a great occasion, which is made even better if you win. We have to take it one game at a time, but this is where the tournament starts to get really exciting."