Aitor Karanka has confirmed Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter is making a quicker than expected recovery from hernia surgery.
The Boro boss previously revealed that the 30-year-old midfielder was on course to be back in contention to play by Christmas after he went under the knife following the side's Championship promotion-clinching 1-1 draw against Brighton at the Riverside Stadium in May.
However, Karanka has revised that prediction and feels that Leadbitter could be back on the pitch a little earlier, as the club's injury problems appear to be clearing up.
When asked about his progress, Karanka said: "He's going well, better than we thought. I hope we can see him - not soon, but before we were expecting."
Summer signing Fabio da Silva picked up a knee during his debut against Fulham in last month’s EFL Cup second-round defeat at Craven Cottage and has been sidelined ever since.
But the former Manchester United left-back is also on the comeback trail and could be in contention to play by the middle of October.
Central defender Bernardo Espinosa, who joined on a Bosman free transfer in the summer, has now fully recovered from the long-term knee injury he was carrying when he joined from Sporting Gijon and is vying for a spot in the back four which has conceded five sloppy goals in the last two matches against Crystal Palace and Everton respectively.
"Bernardo is good, he’s training with the (first) team and has played a few games with the Under-23s," Karanka added in the Gazette.
"We decided and he decided that it’s best to train with the first team, and one day if he does want to play (a game) with the Under-23s then he can, because he’s intelligent.
"He’s a player I can put on the pitch (now)."
Only third-choice left-back James Husband is facing a longer spell on the sidelines after suffering a dislocated shoulder during pre-season.