Gareth Barry expects to make an imminent return to action for Manchester City after revealing no ill effects from two recent recovery matches.
Barry has not kicked a ball in competitive action for over three-and-a-half months, following a double fitness blow. The England man required a hernia operation and then suffered an additional setback when he tore a muscle during his rehabilitation.
In his absence, City have started the season well, currently one point ahead of major rivals United, and with five deadline signings still to bolster the side. With Barry's return also scheduled, Roberto Mancini will have plenty of options at his disposal.
Specific to Barry's position in the heart of midfield, City added Javi Garcia in the dying embers of the transfer window, in addition to the capture of Jack Rodwell, and Barry admits he cannot wait to get back playing so that he can fight for his place.
"I've had two outings with the Elite Development Squad now - 45 minutes against Middlesbrough and 80 against Liverpool and I felt a lot better in the second game so things are progressing nicely," Barry told the club's official website.
"I had a double hernia operation which meant an initial four weeks out, but then I tore a muscle in rehab which set me back a little bit, but I don't think I'm too far off now - touch wood. I'm just taking things one day at a time but I'm feeling quite strong again which is really good.
"This is the longest period of my career that I've been sidelined with injury and the comeback game against Middlesbrough was my first match for three-and-a-half months.
"I'm not a good spectator and I don't enjoy watching the games - I'd much rather be out there playing so I'm obviously really looking forward to getting my season off and running again."
Asked for a specific comeback date, Barry preferred not to put any pressure on his body. But a solid spell of first-team training has boosted belief that his first appearance of the season is not far away.
"The medical team and sports therapists will have a discussion, though I'm not asking too many questions. I had a comeback date prior to the muscle tear, but things don't always go to plan.
"I've been training with the first team for a fortnight now and getting back into the swing of things again."