Manchester City have been boosted by the news that Sergio Aguero's recovery from the calf injury he sustained against Arsenal in December is ahead of schedule, and the striker is expected to return to first-team action this month.
Aguero, who scored 19 goals in 20 games before suffering the injury, took to Twitter to announce he was "recovering at full pace."
Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) January 2, 2014
It will provide City, who are in a fine run of form that has seen them win 10 and draw one of their last 11 games, with a huge boost as they attempt to progress in four competitions.
Speaking at his press conference before City's trip to Swansea on New Year's Day, manager Manuel Pellegrini told reporters: "Sergio is doing his recovering from his calf injury. I suppose that in January he will be OK."
He was originally expected to be out for eight weeks, which would have left him struggling to be match fit for City's Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona as per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian. It was a devastating blow, but it seems he will now be back sooner than expected.
If City are to be successful this season, the core of their side needs to remain fit. Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Aguero are their most important players, and to sustain their title charge and progress in Europe, those players will have to be in top form.
Aguero was in the best form of his City career before his injury derailed him. The Blues have won all five of their matches without the Argentine, helping them to close the gap on Arsenal and progress to the Capital One Cup semi-final, but his return should see them hit even greater heights.
City's last three league victories—over Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Swansea—have been workmanlike, each one decided by a single goal. They are showing they have the grit and determination to win even when not at their best.
Aguero brings a cutting edge to City's game and Pellegrini will be keen to see him return to the side; however, he shouldn't be rushed back. City's excellent form gives Pellegrini the option to be cautious with his star player, much as he was with Kompany's return from his most recent injury.
Aguero is arguably the best player in the Premier League. His pace over the first five yards is exceptional and his work-rate marks him out as a rare type of forward—his goals and assists have been key to City's excellent first half of the season.
City must now concentrate on continuing their run of positive results before adding one of the world's best players back into their side.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.