Paul Lambert admits the expected return of Aston Villa skipper Ron Vlaar will provide a 'huge lift' ahead of a crucial four-day period for the midlands club.
Vlaar was recruited from Feyenoord in the summer to be the lynchpin of manager Lambert's reshaped defence, but he has been sidelined for seven weeks with a calf problem and during that period Villa have leaked a flood of goals - 22 in the last seven games.
But the Holland international is set to play in Saturday evening's Barclays Premier League derby at West Brom ahead of Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg meeting with Bradford. And Lambert said: "There's a good chance Ron will be back. His return could be huge and would be a big lift."
He added: "He came through this week really well in training. The only thing he's lacking is match-fitness but with his muscle and the way he is, he's fine.
"He's an experienced lad and he's played a lot of big games. Ron was playing really well until he went out of the side injured almost a couple of months ago and it will be good to have him back."
Lambert could soon have striker Darren Bent (knee) and Richard Dunne (groin) back in contention and insists he has the experience in his squad alongside his crop of promising youngsters.
He said: "We have got experienced players here.
"I think some people are overlooking that. Ron is experienced, Ciaran Clark has played a lot of games now, Brad Guzan has played a lot of games. Charles N'Zogbia has played a lot of games.
"Gabby Agbonlahor has played loads of games. Because they're young, doesn't necessarily mean they've not played many games.
"With Darren and Richard, they are big players. Hopefully Richard's problem has been cured and Darren with his knee can get back quick. If they get back fit quick, then all the better for everyone."