Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino insists Victor Wanyama is continuing to make good progress in his recovery from a knee injury, but is uncertain whether the holding midfielder will be able to play again in 2017.
Wanyama missed a portion of Spurs' pre-season campaign with a small problem in the cartilage in his left knee and appeared as late substitute at Newcastle United on the opening weekend of the season, before starting against Chelsea seven days later.
However, the Kenya international looked notably off the pace in that last-gasp London derby defeat at Wembley Stadium and has not played again since, with reports over a possible return for the clash with Liverpool on 22 October quashed as he was sent to visit a specialist for advice on an issue that Pochettino labelled as "concerning".
Fears that Wanyama may be sidelined for the rest of the season were sparked last weekend, although Tottenham confirmed before the memorable Champions League victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday that he had begun participating in "fieldwork".
That was the line trotted out by Spurs again on Friday (3 November) and Pochettino was unsurprisingly pressed for a more detailed update during a subsequent press conference held before the weekend visit of struggling Crystal Palace to the home of English football.
"He's doing well, getting better every day," he was quoted as saying by football.london. "That is good. Yesterday he was training alone, still not with the group, but with the sports scientist and physio. It was good. The reaction from his knee was good. He's getting better every day. We'll if he can be available as soon as possible to help the team."
However, quizzed if Wanyama would be back before the end of the year, a cautious Pochettino added: "I don't know. I cannot guess. It's like [Erik] Lamela, now we need to feel his knee is safe and good and ready to step up again."
Spurs will also be without captain Hugo Lloris and key defender Toby Alderweireld against Palace, with the duo set to undergo scans on the respective thigh and hamstring injuries sustained against Madrid. Both are in real danger of missing the north London derby later this month.
Harry Kane is now fully recovered from the hamstring strain that forced him to miss last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, although Lamela, who has not played for Tottenham in over a year after undergoing surgery on both hips, is still not ready to play despite having been back in training for some time.
Pochettino hopes his compatriot will finally be in a position to return after the international break when Spurs travel to face Arsenal, and disputes that his problem is now purely mental.
"No, not mental," he said. "His problem was and is real. I think he's close. Maybe after the international break he can be available we hope. It's so close. For Sunday it's so difficult but maybe two weeks, he can be available for the team again."