With the international break out of the way, Alan Curbishley has had time to assess his returning internationals and recovering injured in preparation for Sunday's match against Tottenham Hotspur.
"I've spent the international break hoping the boys out there come back all right," he said. "James Collins and Freddie Ljungberg needed the games with their national sides so in some respects it's worked well for us. It's given the players here a chance to get fit. Maybe in the next two weeks the injury situation will clear up a bit more."
With regard to the players available for the derby, Curbishley revealed some good news. "This week Mark Noble has trained, following his hernia operation, Hayden Mullins has trained and Scott Parker and Dean Ashton both came through a reserve game earlier in the week," he said. "I've got to make a decision about whether to put them in or not. All of them are in contention but there has been no Premier League action and Scotty has been out longer than the others so we'll have to see.
"On the down side, Lee Bowyer is suspended but he's just had a hernia operation anyway. Craig Bellamy is still struggling with a groin injury. He's seen another specialist this week so we now have to decide the best course of action.
"What pleases me is that the squad has been strong enough to recover from injuries which have gone into double figures. Considering the problems we've had, to be in the top half of the Premier League and in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup is a fantastic achievement."