Manchester - Aymeric Laporte is close to a return to Manchester City's line-up as Pep Guardiola hopes to have the influential defender back ahead of schedule.
The 25-year-old centre-back has not played for the defending Premier League champions since injuring knee ligaments on the last day of August.
His absence has been cited as a key reason for City falling so far behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, who hold a 14-point advantage over Guardiola's team.
City originally expected Laporte to be unavailable until February but he is now back in training, albeit on his own, and Guardiola expects him to join in with the full first team squad within the first fortnight of 2020.
"He (Laporte) is getting better," said Guardiola on Tuesday.
"He is training alone but already on the pitch and I think, yeah, it is the last part.
"I think in one week or maybe 10 days he can come back and can start to train with us."
The City manager would not speculate on a potential return date for Laporte but, with his club competing in three cup competitions, Guardiola is hoping he will be in contention before the end of January.
City still have to negotiate Wednesday's clash with Everton before facing fourth-tier Port Vale in the FA Cup on Saturday and Manchester United in the League Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday.
Guardiola admitted the run of games had left him contemplating the risk of more similarly damaging injuries.
"We think about that, yes," said Guardiola.
"We have five games in 12 days so it is quite similar for the other teams but in this period they have one more day or two more days to recover.
"It is a lot but it is what it is.
"Yes, we take a risk.
"We played 80 minutes with 10 against 11 in a difficult test against Wolves and then after two days we come back and play again."
City are able to welcome back John Stones and David Silva from injury for the upcoming period.
Guardiola is looking forward to a reunion with his friend Carlo Ancelotti when the Italian's new club Everton visit the Etihad.
"Everton is Everton, one of the biggest and traditional and historical teams in England, with incredible quality in these players.
"Carlo is one of the smartest guys he is always able, it doesn't matter the team he takes, to make them work, so it's a difficult test for us."