Benjamin Mendy is targeting a comeback in next month’s Manchester derby after more than five months on the sidelines.
The Manchester City left-back suffered knee ligament damage in the Premier League leaders’ 5-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium in September.
The 23-year-old had initially hoped to be fit around the time of the Champions League semi-finals in late April but his recovery from surgery is ahead of schedule.
City host rivals Manchester United on April 7 and Mendy wants to be involved.
The former Monaco defender told the club’s website, www.mancity.com: “The Manchester derby is a realistic aim. That’s half-clear in my mind. I really want to play that game.
“When I started my recovery, I had in mind the semi-finals of the Champions League. That was my goal, but I am coming back a bit quicker than expected originally so maybe it will be possible for me to return sooner than that. I believe in this.
“I think it’s possible for me to come back within four weeks. It’s not a good thing to come back too soon and you have to take your time.
“We will see how things go but I am working hard and optimistic.”
Mendy made an impressive start at City following his £49.1million move from Monaco last summer but made only five appearances before being sidelined.
Mendy is confident of hitting the ground running when he does return and of doing enough to reclaim a place in France’s World Cup plans.
He said: “Of course, there is the World Cup on the horizon too. For me, there is no doubt regarding the World Cup.
“After I return, it’s on me to impress. I have to make sure I come back well and to keep the rhythm. Before it was one of my targets, but now I know it will be fine.”