TIM Krul is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation – and penciled in to return against Chelsea.
The Newcastle United goalkeeper suffered an ankle problem last month.
And the loss of Krul was compounded by the thigh injury suffered by second-choice stopper Rob Elliot.
It was feared that Holland international Krul would not be fit to return until late next month.
But United manager Alan Pardew is hopeful the 26-year-old will be available for the January 10 Premier League game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
“There’s good news with him,” said Pardew. “The doc feels he’s a week ahead of schedule, and he might make the game against Chelsea.
“That’s good for us because you always want to have your No 1 available.”
Jak Alnwick, 21, has been playing in goal in the absence of Krul and Elliot.
Elliot - who suffered a thigh tear in the 2-1 home win over league leaders Chelsea - isn’t expected to be back until late next month.
The Premier League would not let Newcastle - who have 24-year-old Karl Darlow on a season-long loan at Nottingham Forest - sign a goalkeeper on an emergency loan. United say Darlow cannot be recalled.
Alwnick is being backed up by 17-year-old Freddie Woodman, son of goalkeeping coach Andy.