Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos is confident that he will be fit enough to start the team's Champions League last 16 second leg against Atalanta on March 16.
Ramos damaged the meniscus in his left knee, and the surgery he underwent on February 6 was initially expected to rule him out for closer to eight weeks.
However, according to AS, Ramos believes he can return much sooner. He is working tirelessly to get back to full fitness and expects that he will be able to feature as a substitute against Elche on March 13, before playing the full 90 minutes against Atalanta three days later.
The Spaniard has spoken openly with club doctors about his desire and initially had to be talked out of pushing himself for a return in the Madrid derby against Atletico on March 7. There were fears that if he worked too hard, he could rule himself out for the remainder of the season.
Ramos has accepted the decision and now hopes to return against Atalanta, in what could be a defining moment of Real's season.
Real, who are already out of the Copa del Rey, are slowly making up ground on La Liga leaders Atletico, but they still sit three points behind having played a game more, so there is an acceptance that the Champions League may be their best chance of winning a trophy.
It has even been suggested that winning the Champions League is the only way for manager Zinedine Zidane to save his job, so Ramos is well aware that there is a lot riding on this fixture.
Ramos will hope that Real get most of the heavy lifting done in Wednesday's first leg at the Gewiss Stadium. They will enter the game as favourites, particularly given they have won their last four games, but will know they won't have it easy against an Atalanta side who are on the fringes of a Serie A title battle.
On top of Real's European hopes, Ramos also has his future to worry about. He wants to perform well enough to earn a spot in Spain's squad for the European Championships in the summer, while he also must sort out his future at club level as his contract expires at the end of the season.
Ramos is understood to want to remain at Real, but the club are reluctant to meet his demands of a two-year contract amid concerns that his age may lead to a steep decline in the near future.