Aston Villa striker Kevin Phillips could make a return to action in next week's reserve team match with Birmingham City after recovering from ankle surgery.
The former Southampton man, hurt in the 1-0 Carling Cup defeat at Doncaster Rovers, has resumed training and if he comes through next Tuesday's game he could play in the Premiership game against Tottenham Hotspur on January 21.
The news will be a major boost for manager David O'Leary who has not had any competition for places in advanced positions for several weeks.
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Milan Baros missed the FA Cup victory over Hull City through suspension, leaving the Irishman with just Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore as striking options.
Although Phillips is not yet 100 per cent fit, his progress could not be better timed with Villa looking to build on their recent upturn in results.
"I'm still getting a little bit of grief but it's not too bad and I'm getting more confident," said the former Southampton and Sunderland man.
"I'm feeling happier on the pitch because you can only stand so much time in the gym.
"This week I'll be turning and twisting and there's nothing left on my programme after that. I'll be doing more ballwork for the rest of the week."
Nevertheless, he knows that he will not be assured of an immediate return to the starting line-up.
"I'll be coming back into a side that I won't be able to walk straight back into," he said. "The lads are playing so well and competition is strong.
"We've had a good draw in the FA Cup as well which should give us a chance of progressing," he said in reference to Monday's draw which handed Villa a home tie with Port Vale.
Phillips's team-mate Lee Hendrie has confirmed that his agent has had talks with Portsmouth about a move to the south coast and says he is desperate for first team football.
Villa midfielder Hendrie, who has 18 months left on his current contract, has started just three games this season and has spoken of his frustration at failing to break into O'Leary's first team.
His situation has led to speculation that he would leave the only club he has ever played for - just a few months short of a lucrative testimonial this summer.
And Premiership strugglers Portsmouth emerged as candidates to sign the midfielder as Harry Redknapp looks to bolster his squad with proven top-flight operators.
"I saw the stories that Portsmouth were looking to come in for me and, personally, I don't know what is going on, although I know my agent has spoken to them," the 28-year-old said.
"I don't really want to leave but you look at my situation and you think 'what next?' I don't want to go through a season having played six games. It's pretty poor to think that could happen."
The chances of him moving, however, have not been helped by the fact O'Leary has ruled out any sales during the current transfer window.
His squad is stretched to breaking point with injuries to several key defenders forcing him to use Gareth Barry in the back four.
It was such a move that created space for Hendrie to play in last Saturday's 1-0 Cup victory at the KC Stadium - his first start for a month.
Meanwhile, Villa have dismissed reports linking them with a move for Juventus centre-back Igor Tudor.
The reports claimed that Villa were sending a delegation to Turin to negotiate a move for the Croatia international defender who is surplus to requirements with the Italian giants and available on loan until the end of the season.
However, a Villa spokesman rejected the story out of hand. "This stuff about a delegation being sent is utter nonsense. There's no interest in Tudor," he said. ..SUPL: