Rome: Brazilian midfielder Hernanes could return for Inter Milan when Roberto Mancini`s side host high-flying Lazio on Sunday looking to continue their pursuit of a third place finish in Italy`s Serie A.
Inter claimed their first win under Mancini since the coach`s return to the club in a 2-0 win at Chievo last week.
Although Inter are 19 points behind leaders and champions Juventus, who beat Cagliari 3-1 Thursday in a fixture brought forward due to Italian Super Cup commitments in Qatar, they are only seven behind Napoli in the third and last Champions League qualifying place.
Qualifying for next season`s competition after a two-year absence remains Mancini`s priority, although the former Manchester City handler admitted his return to the club he led to three consecutive Serie A titles in 2004-2008 has not gone as smoothly as he hoped.
"Having lost twice I can`t say I`m satisfied with my first month at Inter, although I`m happy with how the lads are progressing," Mancini told reporters on Saturday.
"Finishing third remains our objective but it`s not something you talk about in the dressing room after a victory and we don`t talk about it if we lose either.
"There`s a long way to go and when it comes to the crunch I`m sure we`ll be in contention."
Hernanes is expected to be named in Mancini`s squad for Sunday night`s San Siro clash after a brief injury absence and could make his return against his former teammates.
"Hernanes is improving, he trained all week with us. He`s not quite ready for 90 minutes but he`ll be on the bench and could come on during the game," added Mancini.
Lazio, meanwhile, have put their slow start to the campaign behind them to sit in fourth place, only one point behind Napoli.
Although Inter`s first match of 2015 is away to Juventus on January 6, Mancini insisted all thoughts are on Lazio -- one of several teams he expects to be fighting for the last Champions League qualifying spot this season.
"Apart from Juventus, now we have to think about taking the points against Lazio, who are playing great football and haven`t taken as many points as they deserve," said Mancini.
"It will be a difficult game, but we have to think about imposing our game.
"I expect a group of teams to be fighting for third place, so we can`t afford to fall too far back. We need a series of positive results."