Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has revealed that Frank Lampard is on course 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 Sunday's 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.
"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.
"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 the Blues slip to fourth place in what is the tightest of title battles.
Asked about yet more dropped points Ancelotti said: "This is not good but I think that there is a long race this year. A lot of teams are involved. I think that Chelsea will be involved until the end of the season."