West Ham manager Sam Allardyce admits he will be taking a "calculated risk" if he involves Andy Carroll in the Hammers' crunch Premier League meeting with Cardiff today.
The England international has not featured this season after struggling with a foot injury but could come to Allardyce's rescue as the club look to end a torrid week with a victory in south Wales that could take them out of the bottom three.
Cup defeats at Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, by an aggregate score of 11-0, have piled the pressure on Allardyce.
A win would take West Ham above their hosts in the league though, and Allardyce is prepared to take a chance on Carroll's match-sharpness earlier than he would usually.
"Andy's training okay," Allardyce said.
"We have to talk to the lads who are looking after him. Whether he's ready or not ... it'll be a calculated risk.
"If everything goes okay and according to plan, I'll make a final decision from the information I get.
"He's feeling fine and training well, but he's not played since last May. He'll not have his match-fitness. Ideally, we'd like to progress it a little slower but, based on the circumstances and where we are, it'll be a calculated risk."
Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga have nabbed just four League goals between them so far this season so a return for Carroll, who moved to Upton Park on a permanent deal in the summer, would boost West Ham's goal threat.
But it is in defence where Allardyce has been plagued by injury in recent weeks.
With James Collins, Winston Reid and James Tomkins all missing, the 59-year-old has had to resort to playing his squad out of position.
The loan signing of Wolves' Roger Johnson, as well as a timely return to fitness for Tomkins, means Allardyce has fewer worries at the back – although Joey O'Brien is now missing.
"We'll have James Tomkins back in the squad," Allardyce confirmed. "James Collins is close but not quite there. But we lost Joey O'Brien as well.
"So it doesn't clear our problems; they continue. We get one back and lose another."