Real Madrid centre-back Pepe has given Zinedine Zidane a boost by returning to training ahead of Los Blancos' trip to Granada on Saturday (6 May). However, Dani Carvajal is expected to be unable to help his side in the La Liga run-in battle with Barcelona after having being ruled out for three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Pepe, 34, has been out of action since fracturing two ribs during the La Liga draw against Atletico Madrid on 8 April.
There were fears the Portugal international could have played his last game for Real Madrid as he is out of contract at the end of the current campaign – and negotiations over a new deal have stalled.
However, it looks like Pepe will return to action soon after Real Madrid confirmed he was back in training with the rest of his available teammates on Thursday (4 May).
"Pepe trained alongside his teammates in a session that was centred around ball work," Real Madrid said on the club's official website ahead of the trip to Granada. "Sergio Ramos was granted leave by the coach, while [Gareth] Bale and Carvajal continued with their respective recovery processes."
The game with Granada may come too early for Pepe, but he should be available for the three remaining La Liga games –as well as a possible Champions League final on 3 June.
The news is a fillip for Zidane as Los Blancos look to beat Barcelona to La Liga and clinch a double following their 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
Furthermore, Pepe's return comes at a perfect time after Real Madrid confirmed Carvajal suffered "a grade 2 hamstring injury in his right leg" during the game against Atletico Madrid.
Reports in Spain suggests the right-back is expected to be out for around three weeks, missing the remaining games of La Liga.
The return of the Portuguese international would give Zidane the option of covering the absence of Carvajal with the versatile Nacho and still have three more centre-backs available in Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Pepe himself.
Los Blancos are level on points with Barcelona in La Liga, but they will clinch the title if they win all their remaining games as they have a match in hand.
Meanwhile, Bale remains on the sidelines but both him and Carvajal are still hopeful of recovering in time for a possible Champions League final.