Cesc Fabregas has returned to training and is free of pain, raising hope the Arsenal captain will be fit to face Barcelona in the Champions league next week.
Fabregas limped out of the win over Stoke with a hamstring injury, forcing him to sit miss the club's defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final.
He also was absent for the FA Cup romp over Leyton Orient on Thursday but has his sights on his former club Barca when the two sides meet again in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
"I am running, getting better and don't sense any pain," Fabregas said. "We'll see how the next few days go.
"We'll take things day by day. I knew I had to come off against Stoke. I couldn't afford to stay on and lose three weeks rather than seven days."
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is optimistic his captain will be fit for the trip to Spain. He said: "I personally hope next Tuesday he has a chance to play in Barcelona. I don't think he will be involved on Saturday [against Sunderland], but he will train on Sunday and have a final test on Monday morning."
Wenger added on Arsenal TV Online: "We assessed him today [Thursday] and he is positive about his injury. We feel he has a chance. I do not want to disappoint people so I say he has 'a chance', I strongly believe that."
Arsenal are protecting a 2-1 lead and want their captain back, given the likes of Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen and Theo Walcott are definitely sidelined , while midfielder Alex Song is struggling to shake off his knee problem.
"Alex Song is out on Saturday and he is doubtful for Barcelona," Wenger added. "At the moment he has not practiced at all. He has this knee problem that gets better every day, but we'll assess it on Monday."
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey, though, could make his first Arsenal appearance since suffering a broken leg just over a year ago as he returns from a loan spell at former club Cardiff.
"There is a chance Aaron could be available in the squad for Saturday. It will be very good to have him back," Wenger said. "He is getting better and better now. We know he has a great engine, has great passing ability and can score goals as well."