Vincent Kompany could be set to return for Manchester City's crunch clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
The City skipper returned to first-team training last week after playing just nine minutes in the last three months because of a calf injury.
Manuel Pellegrini is already without six senior players for the visit of second-placed Spurs with Eliaquim Mangala, Jesus Navas, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony all ruled out. And defender Nicolas Otamendi could also be unavailable after picking up a knock in last weekend's 3-1 defeat to leaders Leicester City.
A loss to Tottenham this weekend could leave City nine points behind the Foxes and on the fringes of the title race.
Kompany has made just 12 appearances this season and has not started a game since the Champions League win over Sevilla on Nov. 3.
His comeback against Sunderland on Boxing Day lasted just nine minutes before he limped off with a recurrence of a calf strain that has troubled him throughout his City career. It was the the 13th time the Belgium international has suffered the injury since joining the club in 2008.
Pellegrini's side have suffered without his experience and leadership at the back, with eight of their nine defeats this season coming when Kompany was missing.
However, the Chilean will be loathe to take any unnecessary risks with Kompany as his side enter a busy spell. After the Tottenham game, City face a hectic seven days. They play Chelsea away in the FA Cup, fly to Ukraine for a Champions League round-of-16 clash with Dynamo Kiev before the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley all in the space of a week.
Pellegrini admitted his squad was stretched after the Leicester defeat as his side compete in four competitions.
"Let's hope we can recover in the next few days," he said. "We've been using only 14 [outfield] players in a very important month."