OWEN GARVAN is set to resume full training with the rest of the Crystal Palace squad on Sunday and he has targeted a return to first-team action by April 27.
The midfielder has been out of action through injury since December, but his return will be a timely boost to Ian Holloway as the Eagles look for the strongest possible finish to the promotion race.
And the Irishman is keeping his fingers crossed that Palace can reach the top flight again.
"These are the crucial games that matter, whether we get promoted or not, but we're in a great position to get out of this league," he said.
"With the five games to go, I'm hoping we can do that.
"I'm back working with the fitness coaches now and it's like starting a mini pre-season at the moment with a lot of running.
"The plan is to get back training with the lads by Sunday, so hopefully it goes well and maybe I can get an U21 game under my belt to step up my match fitness.
"The Leicester game will be touch and go, but if I don't make that, I'd like to make Blackburn away at the end of the month."
The 25-year-old witnessed Palace's goalless draw with Barnsley last weekend, but he believes it was good to record a clean sheet and says the squad's attacking talent will come good again. "For us, if we keep clean sheets, we'll win more than we lose," he said.
"We have some great attacking options, but we were just unfortunate on the day last weekend. If we keep playing like that the results will come.
"We had a lot of the ball and we could have created more."
Palace's next game is away at Garvan's former club Ipswich Town on Tuesday next week, and, with both clubs playing for different things at the moment, a good game is in prospect.
And he believes the Tractor Boys will be a force to be reckoned with under Mick McCarthy next season. "Mick has done fantastically because they looked dead and buried when he took over," said Garvan.
"He went in there and has steadied the ship to keep them safe, but I think next year they'll want to crack on and be in contention for promotion.
"I'm going to go to the game as I've got a few friends up there, so I'll be sitting with them to watch.
"And it will be quite funny as I'll be cheering on Palace and they'll all be cheering for Ipswich.
"No one is really safe from relegation this year so they'll need the points as much as us.
"Every game we play, teams have something to play for."
And looking back on the season so far, Garvan does not think the Championship has been as good as previous years.
"It's funny how people's perceptions change," he said.
"At the start of the season people were saying they would be happy just to stay in the league, but now we're doing so well, people are saying if we don't get promoted it will be a disappointing year.
"I know we have a lot of quality with the lads and it really is up for grabs to get promotion because I don't think the Championship is as good as previous years."