West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic could return to action before the end of the year.
The five-goal Austrian suffered a hamstring injury against Cardiff on December 4 and was expected to be sidelined until 2019.
But boss Manuel Pellegrini revealed Arnautovic is ahead of schedule, meaning he could even be involved in the squad against Southampton on December 27 and Burnley three days later.
“We will need to see his last examination, but I think that next week he will start working with the team,” said Pellegrini.
The outlook is less optimistic for injury-plagued Jack Wilshere, who has played just five minutes since September due to two separate ankle problems.
“We don’t know (when he will be back), we will need to wait for the medical assessment but for this moment, we cannot be sure,” said Pellegrini.
The Chilean boss still expects to complete the signing of Samir Nasri on January 1.
The former Manchester City midfielder, a handy replacement for Wilshere if he is ruled out long term, is building up his fitness following an 18-month ban.
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It is understood West Ham are exploring the prospect of signing ex-Cardiff midfielder Gary Medel from Besiktas, although Pellegrini remained tight-lipped.
“Those names may be one of 25 names that have been said recently, and it is always the same answer, I do not talk about rumours, I am happy with the squad,” he said.