Everton teenager Jack Rodwell is in line to return against Sunderland at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Rodwell, 19, was expected to be out until April after injuring his groin playing for England Under-21s against Italy a fortnight ago.
Rodwell is desperate to play some part in the crucial clash against Sunderland as Everton look to build on their FA Cup triumph over Chelsea.
With the Toffees just three points above the Premier League drop zone, Rodwell is under no illusions about the importance of the clash with Steve Bruce’s side.
“Sunderland is a massive game for us,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
“We need to pick up as many points as we can – especially at home.”
Rodwell has paid tribute to Everton’s medical staff as he has made quick progress in his recovery.
Manager David Moyes is keen to involve Rodwell, particularly as Tim Cahill is in doubt with an ankle knock that forced him out of the FA Cup win at Chelsea after 70 minutes.
It’s the second time this season Rodwell has shown his powers of recovery as he returned ahead of schedule after damaging ankle ligaments last August.
“The medical staff here are really good,” Rodwell said. “I have full faith in them and hopefully I can shave off a few weeks.”
“My last injury I was told it would be three months but I was back in two, maybe even less.”
Sunderland, who have lost their last three league matches, are seventh on the table, 10 points behind fourth-placed Spurs.
The Black Cats have not played in the league since losing 2-1 at home to Spurs on February 12 but young England midfielder Jordan Henderson believes the break has paid off.
“I think it’s been a really good break for everyone, now we’re looking forward to being back,” Henderson told the Sunderland Echo.
“Everyone’s been lively in training and we cannot wait for Saturday.”
“We just want to concentrate on the future.”
“The first thing is the Everton game and hopefully we can do well.”
Manager Steve Bruce’s hand will be strengthened over the next few weeks with the return from injury of some key first-team players.
“I don’t think it’s a case of hanging in there waiting for players to get fit again,” Henderson said.
“We’ve got enough quality players in the team to go and get some good results against some good sides.”
“We’ve played well against the top teams and hopefully, in the next four or five games, we can do that again.”
“Personally, I didn’t feel as though I needed a rest.”
“I felt okay, my stats were up to what they had been all season, so I wasn’t really worried about being tired.”
“I just wanted to get out there.”
“Possibly in the last couple of games I didn’t play as well as I could have. But I’m just going to concentrate on the next three games now and try to take it to the level where I was at before.”
“I just love playing football, so I want to play as many games as I can.”