Renato Sanches will be ready to return for Swansea City in March, says Carlos Carvalhal, who rejected suggestions the on-loan midfielder could be out long-term.
Sanches has struggled to make an impact during a loan spell from Bayern Munich, with the Portugal international yet to score a goal or record an assist in 12 Premier League appearances.
The 20-year-old was initially made a key part of Carvahal's side after his compatriot's appointment as the successor to Paul Clement, but has been on the sidelines since Swansea's FA Cup draw at Notts County on January 27.
Clement told The Times earlier this month Sanches was "damaged" on his arrival at the Liberty Stadium after failing to make the grade at Bayern, and Swansea have won three successive home matches in his absence, but Carvalhal is hoping to welcome the midfielder back to action soon.
"He is progressing," Carvalhal told reporters on Thursday ahead of a return to his former club Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.
"In the beginning they said it could be long-term, but I believe he will come back next month. That's my feeling – I think he will be back sooner than we expect."
Andre Ayew and Andy King will miss the trip to Hillsborough as they are cup-tied, while veteran midfielder Leon Britton is a doubt, but Angel Rangel and Wilfried Bony are both on the comeback trail after undergoing surgery on abductor and knee injuries respectively.
"Angel is looking well," Carvalhal said. "He has had a successful operation and he will be back before the end of the season.
"Wilfried has also had his operation. I talked with him last night – he is feeling well."
Carlos on returning to Hillsborough...Watch February 15, 2018
Swansea are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, Carvalhal having led his side out of the relegation zone after being appointed as Clement's replacement with the team bottom of the Premier League.
And the Portuguese coach accepts Swansea's main goal is staying in the Premier League, rather than targeting an FA Cup run.
"Maybe for me as a manager, it would be fantastic to win a trophy," Carvalhal added. "But I am not selfish, and I know the most important thing for the club is to stay in the Premier League.
"I went to Wembley with Sheffield Wednesday [in the Championship play-off final] and I liked it there. I would love to go back and I believe that in the course of my career I will do that, whether it is this season, next season or another season.
"But the cup is not our priority. Our priority is to stay in the Premier League and we will make changes to our team because we do not want to take any risks.
"We will try to put out a strong side which is good enough to progress to the next round. But also we have to protect the players who have little problems and can pick up injuries."
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