Veteran defender Josh McCloughan says he is on track to add some much needed experience to embattled Queensland Roar as it desperately tries to keep its A-League finals dream alive.
The Roar has not won since McCloughan suffered a groin injury in November 4's 1-0 win at Melbourne.
But in welcome news for the Roar, the Queensland vice-captain said he was on course for a January 1 comeback against leader Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium.
"When we first sat down to plan it out, the Adelaide United game on January 1 was the one we had in mind for my return to action and it looks like we are well on track for that," McCloughan said.
"I don't see any complications. All the running is coming along fine and at the moment I would say I'm around 90 per cent.
"I haven't tested it on a full sprint yet but it's only early December so I've still got plenty of time and I'm not going to push it too hard, too early.
"By the middle of next week I'll start running at 100 per cent and I'm not expecting any problems - it's coming along well."
McCloughan was wary of not rushing his comeback despite the Roar's slipping grip on a top-four season finish.
Queensland is second last on the ladder - it is only four points outside of the top four but only six matches remain, starting against Adelaide.
"If I can't complete all the work that has been set out for my recovery then I won't be right because if I can't do the fitness work then there's no way I would be able to stand up the rigours of playing," McCloughan said.
"I can't wait to get back. It's been a frustrating time and I just want to get playing again.
"We can still make the finals and I want to be part of the push to get us in there."
Stand-in Roar skipper Remo Buess said Queensland had not given up on a finals spot.
"When it's still a mathematical possibility (to make the semi-finals) I think you still have to believe," Buess said.
Roar coach Miron Bleiberg said his side had missed McCloughan's experience.
"We have a young, fit, international team who are quick, enthusiastic and play good soccer but we miss that ingredient of experience up front and we pay the price dearly," Bleiberg said.
"When you're young and rushed and everybody tries to score goals, it's hard with set pieces, but we work on them and again that's just a symptom of a young, inexperienced side."
On the Roar's finals chances, Bleiberg said: "We're going to Adelaide in the New Year to fight, to chase and win and score and maybe we'll turn things around."