Adnan Januzaj could return to training as early as next week, as Sunderland's chronic injury problems ease.
The on-loan Manchester United winger was due to be out for at least six weeks with ankle ligament damage, originally ruling him out until mid-November.
But he has made good progress, as revealed by the Echo earlier this week, and David Moyes says he could return to training at the Academy of Light next week.
Lamine Kone and Patrick van Aanholt are already back training and both are in contention to start the game against West Ham United tomorrow.
At the start of the week, Moyes had nine first team players out injured.
But the return of Kone and van Aanholt is a huge boost after hamstring and adductor injuries, respectively, while Vito Mannone (elbow), Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring) and Jason Denayer (adductor) are also close to a return.
Lee Cattermole, out with a back injury, is making good progress too but forward Fabio Borini (adductor) remains a long-term absentee along with Seb Larsson (knee), although the Swedish international is ahead of schedule and is back running and doing some ball work with the coaching staff.
Moyes said: "We are improving on the injury front.
"We don't think Adnan is as bad and could be back in training by the middle of next week with a little bit of luck.
"Seb Larsson is doing great, he is back running and way ahead of schedule doing bits with the ball. Vito is out on the grass doing some light handling work.
"Kirchh is making progress, he won't be as long as we think. Jason Denayer and Catts are close, they might be back amongst training soon.
"The only one out of the whole group who is a little bit in the distance is Fabio.
"Lamine and Patrick both trained Thursday and are available for selection.
"Nearly all the injuries have been in the games. I have looked to see why it was. Maybe the players are trying to get at their maximum, whether it be running or stretching for the ball.
"We are on the edge all of the time. The really good teams can play when they are not on the edge, we are nearly playing all the games on the edge.
"That means there is always a risk of injury."
Cattermole has missed the last two games with a troublesome back problem, which Moyes believes may be a nerve issue.
The influential midfielder, who had a double hernia operation earlier in the season, is still feeling some discomfort but is close to a return for Sunderland, though.
Moyes added: "We have seen everybody. We think there is an issue with a nerve. We have had his hernia done, his hip, an epidural - we are trying everything.
"We have still not got through it, he is still feeling something."