Manchester City have received a major boost to their title hopes after Fernandinho returned to training.
The influential midfielder has missed the last three matches through injury – which has coincided with City losing two times.
Manager Pep Guardiola is desperate to get the veteran back into his side in the knowledge he offers vital defensive protection.
And with a crunch match against title rivals Liverpool next week, City have been doing all they can to speed up his recovery from the thigh problem that hit him at the start of the month.
Now Guardiola has revealed the 33-year-old has made a return to training – even though he is still short of full match fitness.
Asked directly about Fernandinho’s fitness Guardiola said: “Almost everyone is fit. They are training – not 100 per cent but training.
“We will have his qualities again and he is an incredible player. He is so important like Kevin is, so of course we have to find another solution if he is not available.”
City are unlikely to take any chances with the Brazilian for this weekend’s clash with Southampton even though they are desperate to get back to winning ways.
Instead the likelihood is they will build up his fitness work in the hope he will be fully fit to take on Liverpool on Thursday.
City’s struggles without Fernandinho have exposed a lack of suitable alternatives in the squad at the Etihad.
And Guardiola admits the club tried to bring in other options last summer but failed to get their targets.
He added: “We tried in the summer but the players don’t want to come, what can we do. We wait until the end and the market was there but it didn’t happen.
“The club do the best because they want to provide me with the best team because they want to win too.”