IRELAND defender Richard Dunne could be pitched back into action by Aston Villa tonight for his first taste of football since Ireland's defeat to Italy at Euro 2012.
And in what could be a double boost for Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of the World Cup game in Sweden in March, Dunne's central defensive partner Sean St Ledger is close to full fitness, having come though a reserve match for Leicester City yesterday, his first game in over three months.
Dunne, 33, has not played for club or country since that loss in Poznan seven months ago.
But he has made good progress since returning to full training earlier this month and boss Paul Lambert is considering putting Dunne into the side for Villa's Premier League game at home to Newcastle United.
"When you have missed a few weeks it is difficult to throw someone into the side, let alone someone out half a year. But we will see how he feels. At this minute he is not feeling too bad," said Lambert.
"You have to watch his well-being. There is no point asking him to do something that he does not feel comfortable with or if he is still feeling the injury. That is unfair."
An appearance by Dunne would be a huge boost for Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Sweden in March.