Sunderland loanee Sebastian Coates' recent return to full training could not have come at a better time and he could become an increasingly valuable asset to fellow Uruguayan Gus Poyet during the Christmas period and beyond.
With the January transfer window approaching, there may well be scope for the Black Cats to introduce a new signing into the central defensive position.
However, if that fails to happen, the Wearsiders will be left with the choice of John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Santiago Vergini and Coates for the remainder of the campaign.
On the face of it, four centre-backs should be ample enough for Poyet to select from; but taking into account the respective advancing ages of captain O'Shea and Brown, plus the utilisation of Vergini at full-back when Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt are out of action, shows how stretched the Black Cats' back-line can become.
Furthermore, Wes Brown's form has fluctuated wildly this term and he may well benefit from a rotation policy, which would heavily involve Coates.
The 24-year-old Liverpool star joined Sunderland in the summer - following his participation in the World Cup with Uruguay - in the hope of securing regular football having endured a torrid time with injuries while at Anfield.
Good in the air, agile, tall and powerful, whilst also providing a threat at set-pieces, the Montevideo-born stopper has been unable to hold down a starting place due to a series of setbacks throughout three frustrating years spent on Merseyside.
Unfortunately, he also managed to make just one Capital One Cup appearance for Sunderland earlier this year before breaking down again at half-time with a thigh problem.
Finally back on the comeback trail, the 6ft 5in colossus may evolve into a vital cog in the defensive wheel for the team as the campaign goes on. On a personal note, he must force Poyet's hand in a bid to ultimately prove he has what it takes to succeed at Premier League level.
There's no doubting Coates' potential, but he requires a lengthy injury-free spell in order to realise it. Should he remain fit and available, his manager Poyet may not be forced into the transfer market for another centre-half after all.