Manchester City will give Vincent Kompany a fitness test as their captain bids to make a quicker-than-expected return from a calf injury to face Southampton on Saturday.
Manager Roberto Mancini had ruled the Belgian out until after the FA Cup tie against Leeds United on February 17 but Kompany has returned to training and could be back in the heart of the City defence at St Mary's.
He sustained the injury in the victory at Stoke on January 26 and has been absent since, giving City a problem at a time when another central defender, Kolo Toure, has been at the African Nations Cup.
Mancini said: "We are optimistic. He trained with the team yesterday [Thursday] and two days ago with no problem but we won't decide until after the last training session."
City will definitely be able to include the Toure brothers after Nigeria knocked Ivory Coast out of the African Cup of Nations.
"I am sorry they didn't win but I am happy because they are here," Mancini added. "Yaya is really important for us. We have missed him a lot in the last 20 days."
Micah Richards is the only player to have been ruled out of the game against Saints, who have impressed Mancini in new manager Mauricio Pochettino's brief reign. He said: "Southampton are tough because I watched the game against Everton and against [Manchester] United where they didn't deserve to lose. They are playing well in this moment. They have a new manager and they defend better."
Mancini said he was pleased Mario Balotelli has made a goalscoring start to life at AC Milan but said the search for a replacement is not his top priority at the moment. "I am happy for Mario," he said. "Now our focus should be on the last 13 games plus the FA Cup. After we are working for the summer and we have time to do this."