COBHAM - Injured England defender Ashley Cole could be back in action for Premier League leaders Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Friday.
Cole, England's first-choice left-back, broke his left ankle at Everton at the start of February and his return will be a boost for the west Londoners as they close in on a league and Cup double.
With the World Cup starting in South Africa on June 11, it is also good news for England manager Fabio Capello.
"Ashley Cole is in the squad tomorrow," Ancelotti told reporters at Chelsea's training ground, an oasis of calm with the usual array of Bentleys and Ferraris in the car park.
"He is ready, he's fit, he's totally recovered from his injury and he will start from the bench tomorrow."
The Italian had said previously that Cole could be back for the game against Stoke City on April 25 but was not surprised that the player had become available ahead of schedule.
"He worked very well, also the medical staff worked very well on him," he said.
The manager added: "If he is not involved tomorrow he will play a friendly game next week but it is not necessary. He trained very well this week with the team and did a tackle without any problems. He is really fit 100 percent."
Ancelotti said the only three players who were sure to start at White Hart Lane were Joe Cole, Deco and on-form French midfielder Florent Malouda.
"The other players I don't know. I think that until 5.30 tomorrow I will choose the other eight. I prefer to sleep well tonight," he laughed.
Chelsea are four points clear of Manchester United, who play local rivals Manchester City in the early kick-off match on Saturday, with four games remaining.
They also have an FA Cup final against already-relegated Portsmouth coming up but, despite being firm favourites for the double, Ancelotti maintained a cautious stance with Tottenham beating Arsenal 2-1 on Wednesday and challenging for a Champions League place.
"It's not a formality," he said of the league title. "We have to play some very difficult and important games and we have to pay attention. We know we have to fight."
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said: "We need to beat Chelsea to try to keep pushing for that fourth spot. After tomorrow we'll have a much clearer picture of what's going to happen. It's a tough run-in and they don't come any tougher than Chelsea.
"Chelsea are looking the strongest team. The atmosphere at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night was amazing and we need that again now. We need a lift to keep us going. We have got a lot of tired players at the moment."
Long-term injury victims Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas will miss the game along with Croatians Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka, casualties from the FA Cup semi-final loss to Portsmouth.
Lennon, who is desperate to get fit for the World Cup finals, is making slow progress in returning from an groin injury that has kept him out since December.
Jenas, who scored the first goal of Fabio Capello's England reign, should be back in contention for the visit to Manchester United a week on Saturday having been laid low by a virus following his recovery from a hernia operation.
The only good team news for Spurs is the prospect of Ledley King playing back-to-back games after his impressive performance on Wednesday having not played since February.