DERBY County hope that midfielder Craig Bryson and striker Jamie Ward will return to training today ahead of possible inclusion to face Leicester City tomorrow, kick-off 5.20pm.
The duo have missed the Rams last two matches with groin (Bryson) and hamstring (Ward) injuries, both picked up in the 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at the start of this month.
With fellow first-choice players Will Hughes, John Brayford and Shaun Barker also out, their return would be a timely filip ahead of tomorrow’s evening clash with their East Midlands rivals.
Manager Nigel Clough said: “The plan has been for them to work with the medical team on a one-on-one basis this week, and then return to training on Friday.
“We’re still working towards that and it would be a big boost for us if we could get them out on the pitch on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, defender Valentin Gjokaj admits that Derby have to be careful they are not dragged into a relegation battle, although he hopes they are “too strong” to go down.
The Rams are currently six points off the drop zone after a run of eight games without a win.
Gjokaj said: “We have to be careful because we are just going down and down.
“Now we are battling relegation and we never expected that when you see the football we are playing.
“We should be higher but we have to keep our heads up.
“The results will come, it’s just a question of time.
“I think we have too strong a team (to be relegated).”
The recently-capped Albania under-21 centre-half has started the last two games at right-back following Brayford’s injury, and is happy to play wherever he is needed.
“I’m happy to have got a start against Cardiff and Birmingham, I just want to help the team wherever,” Gjokaj said.
“But I want to win, and for me that is more important than my own appearance.
“It’s different but I think as a professional you should be able to play where the gaffer says.
“I’m happy that Derby gave me the chance to sign a professional contract.
“If I think back to last year, I was playing in front of 100 supporters and now I’m playing in the Championship.
“That’s amazing and it’s an amazing feeling for me.”
With Brayford potentially out for the rest of the season, Gjokaj will hope to keep his place, starting at home to the Foxes, despite a possible return from injury by Kieron Freeman, a full-back by trade.
And the 19-year-old admits it will be a tough test tomorrow.
He said: “It’s going to be a hard game, but we are at home.
“And if we play like we did against Birmingham – and we should play for the fans as well – then we should win that game.
“We just want to go and play our game and hopefully win.
“If you win one then you have motivation for the next one, and hopefully that can push us on.”