Medhi Nafti could be in line for a surprise recall to Birmingham City's first-team after nine months on the sidelines.

The 27-year-old midfielder had originally been ruled out for the campaign by manager Steve Bruce after suffering torn cruciate knee ligaments in August.

Nafti has made just three reserve appearances on his comeback but Bruce is contemplating thrusting the Tunisia international into the fray on Saturday against Newcastle United in a game Blues must win.

Birmingham's Premiership existence is hanging by a thread and victory against the Geordies at St Andrew's is essential to keep Portsmouth under pressure in the relegation scrap.

Bruce will be forced into changing his midfield against Newcastle as Nicky Butt, signed on loan from the Tynesiders at the start of the season, is ineligible.

Nafti, who was named as a substitute for last week's fixture at Everton, is in contention to replace the former Manchester United man although Stephen Clemence is also back in training after his hamstring injury.

"Medhi has done well since his return to the squad," said Bruce.

"In an ideal world, he would have a lot more reserve games under his belt before coming into consideration.

"It would represent a big gamble if we were to pick him. However, because of our circumstances and the progress he has made since returning, then he is definitely in with a chance on Saturday."

Nafti has yet to start a first-team fixture for Birmingham as a fully fledged player, due to his injury.

He made ten impressive appearances last season on loan from Racing Santander and quickly endeared himself to the Birmingham public with his economical, yet effective, style.

His last appearance for Bruce's side was against Arsenal in May but no sooner had he signed a permanent three-year deal than Birmingham's injury jinx struck during a pre-season tournament in La Coruna when Nafti was hurt after an innocuous tackle.

The initial diagnosis was encouraging as he walked onto the plane for the journey home, but a scan revealed the full extent of the damage and Nafti's season appeared to be over. However, with the added incentive of a potential World Cup finals appearance for Tunisia, he has impressed Birmingham's medical team with the speed of his recovery.

A month of training with Bruce's squad was followed by 60 minutes of action for the reserves at Liverpool on April 3.

A week later, he was arguably Birmingham's most impressive player during their 2-0 reserve-team victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers and he completed his first full 90 minutes against Bolton last Tuesday.

Bruce will be concerned about bringing Nafti back too soon, as he has seen a string of players, such as David Dunn, Mikael Forssell and Muzzy Izzet, suffer secondary injuries after lengthy absences.

However, Bruce does have other options available to him in the form of Clemence. The central midfielder limped off after just eight minutes of the 1-0 victory over Bolton on April 4 with a hamstring injury but he has been in training for the last two days.

Jiri Jarosik is still regarded as 50/50 by Bruce, who will be desperate to see his on-loan Chelsea star return. The Czech midfielder has missed the last three fixtures with a hamstring strain.

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