Frank Lampard is set to start Chelsea's crunch Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester United on Sunday after making a surprise first appearance since August at Tottenham.
England midfielder Lampard had been out injured for three and a half months and was not expected to be match fit for the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.
But he came off the bench late on as Didier Drogba missed a stoppage-time penalty that would have sent the faltering champions back to the top of the table.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti revealed afterwards that Lampard would play in a friendly match on Thursday and, all being well, would be unleashed on United this weekend.
'I think he will be able to start the next game,' said the Italian, who revealed he spoke to his vice-captain on Saturday about playing some part against Spurs. 'He wanted to be involved in the squad, to start from the bench, and this is very good news for us.'
Chelsea initially coped well in the absence of their talismanic midfielder but the past month has seen them suffer an alarming slump in form that has resulted in them sliding to fourth in the table.
Ancelotti admitted Lampard's return could hardly be more timely, saying: 'It's very important, not just because he is a fantastic player. He is able to manage this moment with experience and personality.'
Yet, that did not extend to taking Chelsea's penalty against Spurs, with understudy Drogba seeing his poor effort saved by Heurelho Gomes.
Ancelotti shrugged off the miss - which stretched Chelsea's winless run in the league to five matches - insisting 'it doesn't matter' and declaring his side's alarming slump behind them.
The same response was given to the fact the weekend's results saw theBlues slip to fourth place in what is the tightest of title battles.Asked about yet more dropped points Ancelotti said: 'This is not goodbut I think that there is a long race this year. A lot of teams areinvolved. I think that Chelsea will be involved until the end of theseason.'
Blue Sunday: The late substitute appearance of Lampard was unable to inspire Chelsea to a first Premier League win in five matches
Opposite number Harry Redknapp was equally confident Spurs remained title contenders despite missing the chance to move to within three points of top spot.
Tottenham led through Roman Pavlyuchenko's ninth goal of the season but goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes' howler gifted Drogba an equaliser.
It meant the north Londoners' search for a first clean sheet in the league since the opening day of the season continued but Redknapp insisted his side could win the league playing as openly as they have done.
'We certainly won't be changing; I enjoy watching us play,' said Redknapp, who looked to have lost Wilson Palacios to an ankle injury and also revealed William Gallas had torn a hamstring on Friday.
'We've been like that since I've been here and done well. So I don't see any reason to suddenly change the way we play.
'I'd hate to come away on a Saturday night thinking, "I've not had a go today. We've got beaten 1-0 or drawn 0-0 and not had a go".'
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Explore more:People: William Gallas, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Harry Redknapp, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Wilson Palacios, Carlo Ancelotti Places: United Kingdom