Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is hopeful Jay Rodriguez can return to first-team training within a fortnight.
The 26-year-old, capped once by England, had ankle surgery in late November and has not played a game for Saints since 17 October.
The forward only returned last July after 15 months out with a ruptured anterior cruciate knee ligament.
"He's close, I think maybe in one week to 10 days, he'll be back in training," Koeman told BBC Radio Solent.
The former Burnley trainee was in contention for England's World Cup squad before his serious knee ligament injury in April 2014.
His long-awaited return to first-team action this season produced three goals in 12 appearances for Southampton before he was forced to have the operation on his ankle.
Koeman stressed his recovery will be closely monitored.
"After maybe one week to 10 days, if he is in good condition, maybe he can start playing a friendly or a competition game in the under-21s," the Dutchman added.