Martin O'Neill has insisted Aston Villa striker John Carew will return to action this season although he is unable to identify a specific comeback date.
Carew has been sidelined for the past two months with a back problem which has resulted in Gabriel Agbonlahor being employed as the sole frontman.
The Norway international, on target seven times this season before the setback, is due to see the specialist for a further check-up next week.
But O'Neill is adamant the former Lyon player is making progress and will be back in claret and blue at some point as Villa strive to clinch a Champions League spot.
O'Neill said: "I am no soothsayer but John will definitely be back although I couldn't tell you a specific date. That would be hard to say. But he has been making progress, He has been out on the field (at Bodymoor Heath) doing some work.
"It would be great if he could get back because he has been an important player for the past two years. He is feeling a lot better and will have another appointment with the specialist in about a week's time."
O'Neill is full of praise for the way Agbonlahor has adapted to his new role in a 4-5-1 formation ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash at Sunderland. He said: "Gabby has added a lot to his game in the last couple of months with having to play a different type of game.
"He has been used to playing with John Carew, John is not there, and he has had to adapt. It is not ideal. We try to give him as much help as possible, especially in home games. But at this minute in terms of personnel, it is kind of suiting us. This is no fantastic plan. We've had to adjust without Carew but a couple of people have come up big for us and Gabby is one of them."
Full-back Wilfred Bouma is also edging closer to a first-team comeback after his recent return to training following six months out of action with a dislocated ankle.