Mauricio Pochettino admits Tottenham have missed the midfield strength of Victor Wanyama after revealing the tough-tackling Kenya international is close to ending his injury nightmare.
Wanyama has endured a torrid season so far, having not featured for Spurs for more than four months due to a protracted knee problem.
There finally appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for the combative 26-year-old, however, with manager Pochettino monitoring his fitness and hopeful of an imminent return heading into a busy period of festive fixtures.
"We need to see how he reacts, his knee,'' said Pochettino after confirming Wanyama had returned to training. "But it's a very good feeling from him. We will see when he can be involved again.
"Last season, he was such an important player for us. And this season, it's true. In a position that you need to be strong, we have missed a player like him.
"It will be fantastic if, as soon as possible, he can be again involved and available to be selected because he is a very good player; a very important player for us.''
Despite making a late substitute appearance at Newcastle on Aug. 13 and then playing the full 90 minutes against London rivals Chelsea at Wembley the following week, Wanyama actually sustained the initial knee issue during the summer.
The defensive-minded former Celtic and Southampton man -- who missed just two league games last season -- will once again be unavailable when Tottenham travel to sixth-placed Burnley on Saturday, but he could be in contention for the subsequent quick-fire fixtures against Southampton, Swansea and West Ham.
Spurs' assistant manager Jesus Perez echoed Pochettino's positive comments about Wanyama's condition and said the club were pleased the player had avoided surgery.
"During preseason, on the same day, he had two incidents,'' said Perez, recalling the original injury. "And he carried on training.
"Then, we went to America and he played some minutes against PSG [in a friendly] and then we protected him until the second game of the season against Chelsea.
"And he had a bad reaction from that game.
"We tried all the conservative measures to avoid anything major [such as an operation] and, so far, it has worked well.
"And he has reacted very well to the last couple of training sessions.''